A STAUNCH Silver Hill critic has been appointed to Winchester City Council's top table to help respond to legal challenges from the scheme's ex-developer.

Cllr Rose Burns will spend the next three weeks as cabinet member without portfolio as the council defends a damages claim over the £150 million development.

Cllr Burns is a criminal barrister and Conservative ally of Winchester Deserves Better leader Kim Gottlieb.

Council leader Stephen Godfrey said she would use her "special interest in the subject and her legal understanding, which we believe will be particularly helpful".

Developer TH Real Estate is applying for a judicial review of the council's decision to end its contract. If allowed it would be the council's second in 18 months following a successful challenge by Cllr Gottlieb.

Cabinet is meeting on March 10 to discuss its response and whether or not to use a compulsory purchase order on the Silver Hill site. TH Real Estate plans to sue if the council sticks to its decision not to buy the land.

Cllr Burns told the Chronicle: "It is a surprising appointment but nevertheless a welcome one and I'm pleased to have been asked.

"In the run up to that meeting it will be necessary for the council to ensure that they can extricate themselves from this long-running contract as expeditiously they can, eliminating the possibility of any successful lawsuit.

"Because I have a pretty comprehensive knowledge of the history and complex issues involved in the contract, and can bring a legal understanding to bear, the leader asked me to help just over these crucial few weeks."

Cllr Godfrey also announced a new informal policy group to oversee implementation of changes recommended by investigator Claer Lloyd-Jones in the wake of the controversy.

The panel will comprise Cllr Godfrey, his deputy Vicki Weston, Lib Dem leader Lucille Thompson, overview and scrutiny committee chairman Simon Cook and audit committee chairman Neil Cutler.