“THIS city council seems to be presiding over the death of Winchester.”

Those were the words of one resident as councillors met to discuss plans to regenerate part of the city centre.

As previously reported, Silver Hill 2, officially known as the Central Winchester Regeneration (CWR) project, has been described as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” and aims to celebrate Winchester’s culture and heritage, as well as enhancing shopping, increasing the city’s residential capacity and promoting green transport.

Around 80 residents attended a meeting on Monday to discuss the the draft supplementary planning document (SPD) for the scheme, which features plans to include more retails in the city centre.

Concern were expressed that the retail use in the CWR area could negatively affect shopping in High Street.

One resident told councillors: “This city council seems to be presiding over the death of Winchester. Every month another shop leaves and yet you’re talking about more retail. Why don’t you do something to support existing retail?”

However, Cllr Guy Ashton, pictured, city council portfolio holder for finance, defended the plans arguing that it would only account for an extra three to four per cent retail use, when research had found demand of five to ten per cent.

Cllr Ashton added: “Winchester has a four per cent vacancy rate, the national average 15. Having an SPD that allows for flexibility is the way forward.”

The council also faced criticism for the name of the project, along with the Chronicle for ‘Silver Hill 2’, with one member of the public suggesting Saxon Brooks. This was met with a resounding no by other residents in the audience.

In addition, the meeting of the Informal Policy Group (IPG) at Winchester Guildhall on Monday night heard a flavour of consultation feedback.

One person said: “Love the idea of bringing water back to Winchester.”

Another said: “I welcome the attention paid to the visual impact and the view to the cathedral.”

There was praise for proposals to create mixed, affordable housing in the city centre, and the idea of pedestrianising the area.

Meanwhile, the meeting heard a report from the newly formed Archaeology Advisory Panel, chaired by Profession Martin Biddle, which advised against digging in the city centre due to the risk of damaging historically important material.

Prof Biddle, who was not at the meeting, said in the report: “The site is immensely important both historically and archaeologically. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about, capture and preserve the city’s rich past, and we must get this right. National planning guidance stresses that preservation should be the primary objective, and the panel shares this view.”

He added: “Whilst a large scale excavation is not recommended, the local community, including various societies or group, should have opportunities to be involved as the area and developments evolve, and as part of the long term legacy.

“This could span site visits, talks and projects, community and volunteer involvement, the creative use of new technologies and social media to engage and involve the public.”

Feedback on the draft SPD will now be considered, with proposed amendments being published on May 14, and the council’s overview and scrutiny committee review the changes on May 21. The final SPD is then due to be adopted by cabinet on June 6.

The CWR area covers 4.5 hectares of land at the bottom of High Street and encompasses Upper Brook Street to the west, Friarsgate and Middle Brook Street car park to the North, St John’s Almshouses and Lower Brook stream to the east and the Broadway and lower High Street to the south.

In that space, Winchester City Council aims to provide space for shopping, working, living, leisure, culture and heritage through a mix of quiet riverside walks and active shopping streets, as well as providing various types of housing in the city centre.

The draft SPD, created by architects JPT, outlined how areas to the west, including The Brooks Shopping Centre, and Middle Brook Street would be used for retail and cafes, while Tanner Street, Silver Hill and the area near the antiques market would become the mixed-use area for leisure, culture, retail and office space.

Land to the east would then be used for housing.

The draft SPD also outlined how the project would reduce the demand on the city’s transport network by prioritising pedestrians and cyclists, working in conjunction with the Winchester Movement Strategy, which is currently under consultation until December 8.

Unlike the previous multi-million pound Silver Hill scheme that collapsed, the CWR project aims to complete the regeneration works without the need for compulsory purchase orders (CPOs), which one member of the public pointed out could be a hurdle for the council.