AN ARCHITECT is warning that Winchester is getting a reputation for developers to avoid, except if they are building houses.

Paul Bulkeley, of Snug Architects, was speaking to the Chronicle in the wake of the collapse of the Silver Hill and Station Approach commercial schemes.

“A frustration is growing in the architect profession that Winchester is getting a reputation not to do commercial development. It is getting a reputation as a place only to do housing.

“We have lost 10-15 years on Silver Hill and five years on Station Approach and we are back where we started again. Somehow we have to work out why we are getting it wrong. The system is not functioning properly.

“Developing nothing is becoming embarrassing. The local economy will suffer, that is hundreds of millions of pounds of development that is not happening, the investment, the jobs, the homes that aren’t built."

Mr Bulkeley, who has relocated his business from Andover Road to Totton, spoke about the influence of Kim Gottlieb, who opposed Silver Hill and crucially backed opposition councillors over Station Approach.

“Kim Gottlieb is not helping the city by fighting everything to try to get it done his way. In the end something happening is better than nothing happening. But schemes are either stylistically wrong, a storey too high, too mixed or with not enough housing.

“Leaders should be allowed to lead; we elect them and let them decide, and if it is a failure we hold them accountable. But now [with Station Approach] we are holding them accountable five minutes into the process. Station Approach was supposed to be concept proposals.

“The city council asked for far too much at the competition stage. The amount of time and energy the two competitors [Hopkins and Design Engine] put in was equivalent to the full planning application.

“The competition was supposed to identify the preferred bidder not design the building. People were judging it prematurely.”

We have to trust the architects, the consultants, the officers and the politicians and we have lost that trust.”

Keith Leaman, chairman of the City of Winchester Trust, said the council was lacking “really good advice. So far they have gone down the wrong route and they need to find a better route”.

He added: “The system is not working because the right type of brainpower is not giving advice. We need more research than appears to be happening, particularly on car movements and transport. We wonder if there is not a better way of handling cars in and around Winchester. We need a strategic plan for transport.

The supposed need for car parking at Station Approach was the prime reason for the bulk of the scheme to pay for the cost of providing the underground spaces.

“The brief for the site should be open for scrutiny so the public can see what the city council are trying to provide and why.”

Council leader Stephen Godfrey shared Mr Bulkeley’s concerns. He said: “There are going to be 15,000 more workers looking for jobs over the next 15 years. We don’t want Winchester seen as a dormitory town. There is a real risk of that. We have to provide an increase in employment to match the increase in residents in the next 15 years.”