LEGAL pressure on Winchester City Council has eased after developers dropped plans for a judicial review over the Silver Hill development.

Councillors were told on Tuesday that the threat of an inquiry had been lifted.

However, the council could still face legal action.

As reported, a judicial review brought forward by rebel councillor Kim Gottlieb in February last year ruled the council acted unlawfully in its handling of the scheme.

THRE looked set to bring a second judicial review to challenge the council’s decision to terminate its development agreement.

The Chronicle had told how THRE had sent the council a pre-action protocol letter outlining its stance that the council decision was unlawful because it was “unreasonable, irrational and a disproportionate interference”.

Now a meeting of civic chiefs heard that lawyers for the developer have indicated it would not be pursuing judicial review proceedings.

However, developers are still considering whether to pursue a claim against the council for breach of contract to reclaim some of its losses.

Council leader Stephen Godfrey said: “I’m content that the challenge wouldn’t have been successful and pleased that the developer has recognised that.

“I think we can get back to dealing with what the council should be dealing with rather than working with our lawyers all the time.”

He said the legal threat could hang over the council for several years, but said the council had sought legal advice before it made the decision to terminate.

This was revealed as senior councillors approved a complete review of the whole Silver Hill site which will see members of the public asked how they want the area regenerated.

The council says this is the first step in moving forward after it kicked the developer off the £150m project earlier this year.

But the council heard it could be another seven years before any development emerges.

The supplementary planning document will set out what in general terms should happen to this part of Winchester to meet immediate and future needs, consulting with local people and businesses.

Cllr Godfrey said: “We’re starting a new project. This is day one of the new project.”

Cabinet members approved £100,000 for developing the new planning document, work on which is estimated to cost a total £200,000.

The council will look at whether to hire external consultants to look at key issues.

Cllr Godfrey said the council could not rely on its previous vision for the site as things had changed.

Consultation is expected to take place between August and December ahead of publication of the draft plans around September next year.

The cabinet also opted to purchase the building currently housing St Clements GP surgery, in Tanner Street, which plans to move once building is complete on a new facility off Friarsgate recently given planning permission.

Councillors heard it might be better to own the site themselves to reduce complications of multiple landowners when it came to future plans.

Cabinet members also decided to retain the freehold on property it owns in the Silver Hill area and authorised letting of those properties for a maximum tenancy of five years.

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