A REPORT on revamping the Station Approach area in Winchester is set to spark strong interest from developers, the council leader said.

The city council has commissioned consultants Tibbalds report that says the redevelopment is feasible with suggested new uses including new offices, 250 homes, car parks and cultural uses on the land that stretches from Gladstone Street to Andover Road.

Keith Wood, council leader, said at Cabinet yesterday: “We want to bring employment in to the city and create diversification from (just the) public sector. We want a better balance. We want to make sure this area is developed in such a way that it is an improvement architecturally.

“There will be some things people who don’t like but that happens in Winchester.”

Cllr Wood said there had been several proposals for the area from developers. “It emphasises how difficult it is to find land for anything in Winchester. It’s a compact and highly developed city. This report will generate a lot of interest from developers and companies that want to move to Winchester.”

Civic chiefs have backtracked from involving the public at a meeting in January over the redevelopment of the railway station area.

The town forum had heard that a meeting with stakeholders in January would be open to the public.

However at Cabinet, forum chairman Robert Hutchison stepped back from involving the public at this early stage. “The next step is dialogue with stakeholders. I don’t think this should be rushed into. The January meeting should be stakeholder dialogue with the city council.”

The stakeholders are mainly the landowners such as the county council, Network Rail and the city council itself.

Steve Opacic, head of strategic planning, said: “There’s wide consensus this part of town has great potential to contribute more. What we don’t know yet is what it has potential for. We have advice from Tibbalds that we can take or leave.”

Michael Carden, from the City of Winchester Trust, stressed the importance of involving the public: “Public engagement has so far involved a few stakeholders but it was strictly one-way process. With the public it must be a dialogue from which there should come good ideas and enthusiasm; but without it, or too late, there will be trouble.”

Mr Carden said it was vital there was a strong masterplan. “One only has to look at the depressing incremental redevelopment along the bottom end of Andover Road to see what happens when these things are left to individual developers and the limited influence of Development Control.”

Phil Gagg, of the transport group of Winchester Action on Climate Change, said he was concerned that the needs of cyclists and pedestrians may be overlooked in drawing up the masterplan. “We are very worried the report is weak on the way it considers how people should move around the site.”

Simon Eden, chief executive, said the criticism was unfair as such work would be done at a later stage.

Mr Gagg also said it would be a mistake to enlarge the Gladstone Street car park and develop Worthy Lane/Cattle Market as it would suck in traffic into the city centre.

A bigger plan is in today's Hampshire Chronicle.