SIR: I am dismayed and embarrassed by the way in which the city council is treating the City of Winchester Trust, and by the comments of Cllr Kelsie Learney and the Strategic Director of Place, Chas Bradfield, in last week’s Chronicle. The trust have behaved impeccably while the Council have, yet again, acted unlawfully in connection with a major development project. It is time that this was acknowledged by the council, and that those responsible should be held to account.

It is wrong to imply that the trust was confrontational and that the Council had no warning. Before the council granted itself outline planning permission for a Brooks Centre-sized white elephant last September it had received warnings from the trust, the South Downs National Park, Historic England, the Regional Design Panel and others including its own specialist officers, about a range of key issues that had not been satisfactorily answered. The only way to stop the inevitable ‘train crash’ was via a Judicial Review, and the Trust should be applauded for taking on a difficult task.

Not only would the proposal have caused harmful visual and amenity impacts, it wasn’t even going to make any money for the council. The LEP grant was a misleading distraction as the chief figures didn’t stack up, while the proposed sale made no commercial sense. It would have been Silver Hill all over again and another decade of faffing about while the developer struggled to make the proposal viable.

The root of the council’s troubles is a failure to resolve its conflict of interests as landowner, developer and planning authority. It needed to have gone over and above in proving its case and addressing all issues, and not push an application through the system for the sake of expediency.

The trust has access to expertise which the council does not have. The council should be seeking the trust’s help rather than berating it in press releases and elsewhere. Station Approach could be developed in a way that works financially and doesn’t harm the townscape, but there needs to be a significant change of attitude within the council to make that happen.

Cllr Kim A Gottlieb,

City of Winchester Trust Member,

East Stratton