THE new boss of the Winchester Business Improvement District has been getting to know his new city.

But one thing Richard Sutherland is certain of is that Winchester cannot afford to stay still or it will "wither on the vine."

Mr Sutherland believes it is not an option for the city to rest on its laurels.

Addressing the high number of public sector jobs in the city, Mr Sutherland said: "There's no doubt if the city is to survive and thrive there is a rebalancing needed here. We currently have 50 per cent of employment in the public sector. We need a more balanced economy and the city needs to grow.

"I'm super optimistic these are issues that can be resolved and we shouldn't shy away from wanting to grow. If we don't we will wither on the vine. We have to highlight quality schemes that people are proud of, that add to the long-term value of the city."

He was speaking as the city council is involved with three major projects: Station Approach, the sports centre at Bar End and the Central Winchester Regeneration (CWR) otherwise known as Silver Hill 2.

It is the hottest of hot potatoes with many people disagreeing that the city needs to grow but should concentrate instead on promoting its heritage and tourism.

A key part of Station Approach is to build high-quality offices to attract private firms into the city. The Chronicle recently reported that some 1,000 jobs could come with the Station Approach scheme.

Another issue is the High Street. The problems have been shown recently by the closure of Piquant and the near collapse of Patisserie Valerie.

Mr Sutherland is working on a handful of new initiatives that the BID plans to launch over the next six months to ensure the High Street "continues to thrive and does not turn into housing or offices but remains a vital social meeting place."

"Winchester does have an issue in the balance between retail and food and beverage. It is one we need to address. If Winchester is to thrive it needs to have both offerings at the top of their game.

"We do need more retail in town to in order to make sure we don't become a place where people dash in for a couple of hours, grab a drink and disappear. We have to have an element of being a shopping destination as well."

Replacing Catherine Turness, Mr Sutherland says he is optimistic about the future.

"The joy of the challenge is to find a way forward and put the past behind us. It is a vital period for the city and certainly getting it right is not an easy job and none of us has a crystal ball to see what the future holds.

"It is a complicated job but I have great optimism we will find a solution to cope with the future demands

It is too pessimistic to say retail is dying. People are social animals and enjoy the interaction of being in a bustling city centre.

Mr Sutherland previously worked for Marketing Birmingham in the west Midlands

He has some links with the area having spent part of his teenage years living in Meonstoke in the Meon Valley.

With the St Approach and CWR on the cards Mr Sutherland sees this an opportunity an opportunity for retail. "We have an opportunity to bring in more retail. we cant force them but we can make it more attractive to come here."

"The BID is very aware that businesses are struggling in the current climate with the winds of change blowing through the economy but we are...

"I'm sure I haven't been mistaken in coming here. What a wonderful place it is to live and work in. I'm privileged to have the opportunity to play a small part in the city's future.

"I hope to have an open door, to be available for people in the city to come and talk, to understand different viewpoints and work with everybody."