CIVIC campaigners have backed the preliminary stages of a major regeneration of the Winchester Station area, but sounded warnings.

The 2020 Group, comprising members of the City of Winchester Trust and WinACC, spoke in support of the city council initiative, reported in the Chronicle earlier this month.

The council wants to look into ways to transform the dowdy neighbourhood that stretches from Upper High Street to the Cattle Market.

Ideas have included creating a high-quality, low-carbon ‘gateway’ to the city with perhaps major office development.

It has appointed Tibbalds planning consultants to draw up a vision that can guide development.

Michael Carden, from the trust, told the town forum: “The 2020 Group have every reason to support this initiative. It would, however, be desperately sad if the eventual outcome should be compromised by any lack of forethought.

“The military axiom ‘time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted’ is as applicable to planning as it is to warfare, both activities being campaigns which can have disastrous consequences if not well prepared. Which is why we attach so much importance to the need for ‘a framework for change’.

“Regeneration of this area will take many years and involve different landowners, different developers and different designers.

“The different developers will need advance guidance (what Tibbalds call ‘a strong design vision’) so that we do not end up with (in the words of the council’s brief) ‘a piecemeal and uncoordinated development resulting in a poor environment and missed opportunities.’”

David Ashe, also speaking for 2020, said it was important that developers had, not a fixed masterplan, but a framework to act as a guide.

“Provide a clear framework, signed up to by all stakeholders, and you have reduced uncertainty and the attendant risk that the developer will be left with a premium project in an otherwise poorly planned piecemeal neighbourhood.

“He or she does not therefore need to set aside so much contingency, meaning there is more in the pot to spend on land. The certainty provided by a framework will interest more developers and so generate better land values.”