WINCHESTER civic chief Stephen Godfrey says the city must embrace change and believes most people support him.

Cllr Godfrey was speaking at the Future of Winchester conference in the Guildhall today.

He outlined his vision for Winchester as a 21st century historic city that embraces change and says it faces an important choice.

“There has been much debate about ‘change’ in Winchester, with various proposals to build more homes, town centre regeneration, extra care housing for the elderly and commercially-led development across the district.

“There are those who are uncomfortable with this change. They argue that Winchester is successful because of its unique appearance. ‘Winchester is special’ and different to anywhere else.”

There are several controversial projects in the pipeline including the £150m Silver Hill scheme, Station Approach, 2,000-home Barton Farm, a possible new leisure centre at Bar End and extra care housing in Chesil Street.

Cllr Godfrey added at the conference: “Seven years ago, as the council worked on its new Local Plan, we spoke to thousands of residents and local businesses about their views on how the whole district should respond to the challenges that we faced.

"We presented a choice between withdrawing behind ramparts to try to prevent more people coming here, to restrict development and preserve Winchester in its current state for future generations King Canute-style or to embrace the inevitable changes that a growing population and increasing economic activity brings, to deliver a step-change in development of the whole district – encouraging the right type of development, attract more employment and keep Winchester at the forefront of a vibrant tourist industry.

“The vast majority of residents, businesses and councillors supported the latter path. Our priority is to maintain and enhance the local economy. We want everyone who wants to work to be able to work in a local job that pays sufficiently well for that person to be able to afford to live in this district.”

Cllr Godfrey added: “Growth and change will not render Winchester bland and like anywhere else. The city has become what it is by absorbing growth and giving its own imprint to what is new, be that housing estates, offices, shops or even a Norman Cathedral. Development does not eradicate any sense of us being special, instead development done well and thoughtfully adds new dimensions to the city’s character.

“Provided we don’t settle for average proposals, we have the chance to embrace the challenge of providing jobs, homes and new attractions for our future. The choice is yours.”

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