THE LAST major stumbling block to the £130 million revamp of Winchester city centre has been removed.

The developer has reached a deal with a major landowner to buy its part of the Silver Hill site.

Henderson Global Investors and its partner Winchester City Council have reached an agreement with London and Henley to acquire its holdings.

A compulsory purchase order had been approved last March but London and Henley was resisting the development. A hearing in the High Court was due to have been held.

Now Henderson and L&H have agreed an undisclosed deal to buy Kings Walk Parade, the Antiques Market and the former Post Office buildings.

Henderson has also completed the purchase of 158-160 and 163-165 High Street, which will be one of the main entrances into the site that lies between The Broadway and Friarsgate.

Keith Wood, leader of Winchester City Council, said: “The deal with London and Henley is a very significant milestone in the Silver Hill story, and I am delighted that we have reached a point where work on the scheme is planned to begin this year.

“The development has been a long time in the making and Winchester should be proud that despite the recent economic times developers have retained their faith in Winchester and are preparing to revitalise a neglected area of the city.”

Martin Perry, development director at Henderson, said: “We continue to be encouraged by the strong support that we have received from the local community, ranging from the business community to the City of Winchester Trust. The deal with London and Henley represents a significant milestone for the Silver Hill project, opening the way for development to commence.”

Henderson is also planning, as reported by the Chronicle last month, to submit a revised planning application, creating more space for shops and dropping the replacement bus station. It says the scheme will remain broadly the same.

MMX Retail is acting as retail consultants. A pre-letting with Sainsbury’s has already been agreed on a 25-year lease for a purpose built store of 18,500 sq ft.

It says demand from retailers is “extremely strong.”

The scheme, designed by Allies & Morrison, provides a gross external area of 630,000 sq ft with:

  • 95,000 sq ft retail;
  • 18,500 sq ft office, with 20 car parking spaces;
  • 11,000 sq ft medical centre;
  • 207 flats;
  • 100 ‘affordable’ flats – 35 per cent of which are social rented;
  • Some 168 residential parking spaces;
  • and 330 public parking spaces.

The scheme for the regeneration has been on the cards for more than 20 years and got planning permission in 2009.

The council is keen to stress that it sees the new application as a relatively minor revision and not a green light for new ideas.

Henderson recently opposed M&S plans for a new food store on Easton Lane, Winnall. The city council rejected the M&S proposal.