SIR: In July 2018 you carried an article about the beautiful little water garden created by the late Sir Peter Smithers on land behind Colebrook Street, which he had purchased from the city council with a view to opening up to the public a new perspective on the Cathedral. Its recent purchase at the time of your article had led to concerns that it might be subject to development; but in your article you reported that a representative of the new owners had said “What is the point of having something so beautiful and building on it?” It was an apt comment; it is in truth a thing of beauty, and one that gives great pleasure to those who pass by.

But things change. A planning application has now been made. It seems that the owners no longer see the point of having something so beautiful, and do indeed wish to build a house, if not on top of the water garden, then overshadowing it – literally so, as a steel balcony is proposed which appears to project almost to the edge of the water. The application says the water garden will be left intact. That is a matter of opinion. Its character will be destroyed, and it is that character that makes it what it is. It is said that protected trees will not be affected, but one wonders how they can survive the drastic pruning necessary to make way for the development. If the application succeeds this small oasis will not be the same; it will have been denied the space to breathe, and Sir Peter’s vision will have been betrayed.

In view of the unqualified assurances given so recently, and given for public consumption, may we hope that the council will see that this is a development which should not be allowed to proceed?

Christopher McCall QC,

Ferry Lane,

Moulsford on Thames,


SIR: It is very disturbing that the priceless Colebrook Street water garden in the shadow of the cathedral is threatened with destruction.

For five decades Winchester residents and visitors have loved the sight and sound of its spring-fed pool, framed by delightful hedges and magnolia trees. Thanks to the generosity of its creator, former Winchester MP Sir Peter Smithers, Water Close is a modern treasure, a public work of art, a heritage asset and even a tourist attraction.

Application has been made to build over half the tiny garden. A modern two-storey house will stand over the pool, just a few feet away, with a balcony up above. One of the pair of curved hedges will be grubbed up and the garden design will be ruined, the trees cut back to make space. The architectural plan shows a home which will be quite inappropriate for its location in the conservation area. The roof will be seen over the garden walls further spoiling the great visual amenity. Walkers looking from the path to the Cathedral Close will see into the window of a ground-floor bedroom just feet away. The water garden should be saved as a green space. It would be tragic if it was built over. Little time remains to express opinions on the proposal. The closing date to contact Winchester City Council is November 11.

John Holder,

Colebrook Place,