A NEW group of residents taking on Winchester City Council at the ballot box has called for an end to party politics.

Winchester Independents is fielding candidates at May's election in a bid to set a "new vision" for the district.

Made up of past campaigners on issues including River Park Leisure Centre and Barton Farm, the organisation wants to take as many seats as possible and abolish partisanship in the council.

Member Judith Martin said: “Winchester Independents wants a new vision, one which ensures proper planning that is respectful of our city's heritage, expertly managed and supported by the community, with genuine ambitions and timescales instead of vague and easily broken promises. We're pretty confident it won't include seven-storey buildings and massive, ill-conceived new retail areas.”

The group has called for a council with "no party politics", elections every four years, a "more democratic" committee system of decision-making, and a vision that "understands the character of Winchester and its district, with planning policies that respect it".

The initiative was sparked by the Lloyd-Jones report into Silver Hill, which called for the council to overhaul its constitution and decision-making.

Mike Caldwell, also of Save the Rec, said: "Claer Lloyd-Jones' revealing and hard-hitting report has sounded the alarm bells. We desperately need fresh, independent-minded thinking in The Guildhall, otherwise nothing will ever change.”

Winchester's two main parties, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, do not whip councillors on many issues, including Silver Hill.

And the Lloyd-Jones report identified cross-party consensus and lack of political opposition as contributing to the “perfect storm” over the scheme.

Lib Dem county councillor Jackie Porter said: "We must be careful what we wish for. A disparate set of independents standing will increase, not decrease, the Conservative chances of taking the council again in May. Don't forget, it's not just the city but the whole district, South Downs to Waterlooville, and north to Sutton Scotney!

"We must be careful not to put in a team who object to everything, but don't have a plan!"

The Lib Dems, who were found by the High Court to have first breached European law over Silver Hill in 2004, were not exempt from Ms Lloyd-Jones' criticism.

Winchester Independents is inviting volunteers and potential candidates to a launch meeting in St Peter's Church Hall on March 17.

Peter Macfadyen, independent leader of Frome Town Council and author of Flatpack Democracy, will speak alongside Prof Jan Pahl, of Canterbury District Campaign for Democracy.

Other speakers include Gavin Blackman of Save Barton Farm and Hart District Council independent John Bennison.