THE councillor who played a key role in bringing down one multi-million pound Winchester scheme is questioning whether another should proceed.

In a letter to his cabinet, Conservative-turned-Liberal Democrat Kim Gottlieb has said continuing with the current Station Approach project – the second attempt at regenerating the area around Winchester railway station – would be "unwise".

Cllr Gottlieb, who played a key role in bringing down the original Silver Hill scheme to regenerate part of the city centre, expressed concerns that that the scheme as it is would present too much of a risk to the council.

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While still a Conservative, Cllr Gottlieb also voted against his own party to derail the first Station Approach attempt.

In the letter to cabinet, which met last week, Cllr Gottlieb said: "This project has been mismanaged since 2015 by successive Conservative administrations, which have misunderstood the development process.

"I understand why cabinet is reluctant to write off the money the council has spent, and why it wants to rescue the project in order to bolster the local economy, but I fear that its efforts will be futile. Moreover, I believe that there are a number of risks associated with the project that make continuing with the current proposal unwise."

Cllr Gottlieb repeated the concerns he voiced at a previously council meeting about the council losing control of design of the project.

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As previously reported, the scheme is set transform the area around the railway station, creating 140,000 square feet of Grade A office space, along with a further 17,000 sq ft of retail, cafe and restaurant space.

Civic chiefs estimate it will provide an £81million boost to the local economy and create 1,000 jobs. The planning application is expected to go before a city council planning committee in either this month or next.

He said: "The biggest risk arises from the proposal to sell the site with the benefit of an outline planning consent for a 200,000 square foot building, over which the council has no design control.

"The reality is that the council will have no control over what the development will ultimately look like.

"I would reiterate that I support the development of this site but that I believe that there are alternative and more financially attractive ways of doing so."

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Councillors have also previously voiced concerns over the £5million M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) grant to improve the public spaces, which cabinet members recommended the full council agreed to.

Under the terms of the grant, which has been approved subject to planning permission being granted before the end of October, the council would need to spend the money by March 2021, meaning those works would need to be done ahead of completing the central office development, which would be carried out by a developer.

Speaking at a scrutiny committee meeting last month, Cllr Hugh Lumby, who is himself a property lawyer, said: “We can’t require the purchaser to build the site,” adding there could be a scenario where the developer chooses not to build on the site, resulting in the LEP money have to be paid back.

City council strategic director Chas Bradfield Bradfield said: “It is a risk to the council,” but added: “I think the LEP are very clear that they are supportive of the scheme.”

Cllr Caroline Horrill, who was leader of the council for large part of the scheme progress prior to May’s local elections, questioned whether the new administration would be “prepared to forgo the £5m”, to which Cllr Learney said: “It is an option right now that we are desperately trying to avoid.”

During the cabinet meeting last week, in which Cllr Gottlieb's letter was referenced but not read out, Mark Baulch of the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, and Paul Spencer, executive director of Winchester BID, urged councillors to proceed with the project.