SIR: Six years ago this week, nearly 2,000 Winchester residents attended the now legendary Winchester March. It took place two weeks before the planning committee met to decide the Henderson scheme which, sadly, it approved. Other causes joined the march, but we all cried “we want change”.

In the period since, little within the city council has changed. With regard to major development, it still lacks the skills, experience and flair to manage projects in a proficient way. Irrespective of the colour of the administration, Station Approach, Silver Hill, the Bar End Depot and others have been dismally directed. The loss of a Judicial Review in respect of Station Approach in 2019 corroborates that no lessons were learned from the council’s failure in the High Court in 2015 (Silver Hill).

Next Spring the ribbon will be cut on the new sports centre, and praise should be given to those who did the hard work. However, no amount of celebration can disguise the potentially disastrous nature of the financial structure underlying the project, or the reduced size of the sports hall which leaves Winchester unable to house all its clubs or compete with Eastleigh when hosting sporting events.

The biggest barrier to constructive change is, in my view, the council’s Chief Executive, Laura Taylor. My own engagement with her has, at times, been bizarre. Even though I was a councillor who sat on the relevant committee I was denied a copy of the sports centre operator contract, and even access to architect’s drawings to review in between meetings. In the case of Station Approach, Ms Taylor’s team just spent more good money after bad, and their answer to the Depot Site and to Silver Hill is to sell them off. To help make the misguided decision to sell its crown jewels, the council has paid many hundreds of thousands of pounds to consultants in an opaque and, I believe, a fundamentally undemocratic process.

Winchester still Deserves Better, and it still needs change. I believe that a new chief executive is the way to achieve it.

Kim A Gottlieb,

East Stratton