SIR: An Informal Policy Group established by Winchester City Council planned to meet privately with urban design consultants JTP next Monday, June 19, but the meeting has been postponed to accommodate diary clashes on the part of the councillors concerned. The group’s function is to develop the Supplementary Planning Document that will set out the council’s vision for the regeneration of the Silver Hill site. We believe that this meeting may be the turning-point for the future of the site, and of the image that Winchester presents to the world. It will be a not-to-be missed opportunity for bold and imaginative thinking.

There are many towns whose economies are led (or have been revived) by taking advantage of their heritage and their creative talent. This may involve exposed archaeology, museums, theatres, concert halls, art galleries, and attractive open spaces for outdoor performance. They may feature affordable workspaces for creative people and organisations, open waterways, covered markets, antiques and craft markets, and boutique hotels. Other examples feature independent shops rather than retail chains, while still leaving plenty of room for housing (including affordable housing), offices, transport hubs and so on. As in those other towns, such measures would bring big spin-off benefits to the city’s wider economy, as well as playing to Winchester’s strengths, underlining what we and many others see as its essential character. And it need not all be done at once - if the framework exists, the individual elements can be slotted into it over time.

If the council worries that investing in infrastructure for heritage and the arts is too costly and risky, the answer is that they need not take on the risk. Others can do that, but they won’t succeed in raising the capital to build a concert hall, an art gallery or a museum of the Saxon age, when Winchester hosted the birth of a nation and a language, without the support of the council. It can show that support by giving them small amounts of funding to help them write the necessary business plans and applications to the Arts Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and elsewhere, and – in due course – to apply for revenue grants to fill any gaps between income and running costs.

We urge the council and JTP to start a process that will differentiate Winchester from other towns in the South. Our city, with its unique heritage, should be a destination to which visitors will come for two or three days, rather than, as now, just for half a day and then back on the coach to finish their tour at Stonehenge.

If the Council wants to transform Winchester’s economy, while making the city a better place for its citizens, it now has a golden opportunity. It must seize it.

Mike Caldwell, Nuns Road,

Tim Fell, Bereweeke Avenue;

Professor Ed D’Souza, head of school, Winchester School of Art

Jayne Gillin, The Little Pub Company,

Winchester Kate Gould, joint artistic director, Winchester Chamber Music Festival,

Professor Bill Lucas, trustee, the English Project,

Steve Marper, chairman, Hyde 900,

Jenny Muncaster, The Colour Factory,

Deryck Newland, chief executive, Theatre Royal,

Daniel Tong, joint artistic director, Winchester Chamber Music Festival;

Hazel Agombar, Edgar Road,

Pedro de Alvs, Boscobel Road,

John Andrews, Hyde Street,

Vicki Atherton, Hyde Abbey Road,

Vivian Austin, Cathedral View,

Pip Billington, Kingsgate Road,

N W Birkett, Teg Down Meads,

James Branch, Hyde Close,

Michelle Buhl-Nielsen, Kilham Lane,

Anna Cadey, Hatherley Road,

Andrew Carnie, City Road,

Gill Davies, Nuns Road,

Barrie Dey, Canon Street,

Julian English, Courtenay Road,

Barbara Fell, Bereweeke Avenue,

Mike Fowkes, Travellers End,

Dr Martine Garabette, Travellers End,

Judy Harbourne, Worthy Lane,

Steve Harbourne, Worthy Lane,

Jane Harding, Back Street,

Elizabeth Harrison, Twyford,

Mark Harrison, Twyford,

Anne Havil-Jameson, Edgar Road,

Bill Hoade, Worthy Lane,

Katherine Hodgkinson, Worthy Road,

Paul Hodgkinson, Worthy Road,

Kezia Hoffmann, Swithun Way,

Juliet Howland, Abbots Worthy,

Tomos James, Cromwell Road,

Frith Johnson, Ampfield,

James Kelsey, Chesil Street,

Dr David P Knight, Teg Down Meads,

Bill Leadbetter, Highcliffe Road,

Christine Leonard, St James’s Villas,

Joanna Lewis, Hillside Close,

Judith Martin, Romsey Road,

Tori McLean, Quarry Road,

Arthur Morgan, Edgar Road,

Rodney Morgan-Giles, Old Alresford,

Peter Page, Northlands Drive,

Christine Pilgrim, Canon Street,

Tony Pryor, Worthy Road,

Beccy Read, Gladstone Street,

Professor Paul Roderick, Andover Road,

Neville Rose, Hyde Abbey Road,

Rita Seres, Hyde Street,

John Stanning, Cornes Close,

Dr Cui Su, Hyde Close,

Janet Theodore, Hyde Street,

Hilary Thomas, Hyde Street,

Kitty Todd, Christchurch Road,

Sir Antony Walker, Nuns Road,

Robyn Wedderburn, St Giles Close,

Eileen White, Edgar Road,

Suzy Willmott, Eastcliffe,

Caroline York, Alison Way,

Richard York, Alison Way