MAJOR developments in the heart of Winchester and the bins will be among the main issues at the forthcoming city council elections on Thursday May 6.

Coronavirus has halted much progress on the Central Winchester Regeneration, better known as Silver Hill and the £150m redevelopment of Station Approach.

Progress on both has been glacial over several years with the Tories blaming the Lib Dems.

The Tories are working hard to exploit unhappiness over new charges for green recycling bins. The Lib Dems point out that they are almost the last authority in Hampshire to introduce the charge and most of the other councils to have done so have been Conservative.

These seats should have been contested last May but were postponed because of the first lockdown. It means that the city council contests, a third of its seats, will coincide with county council elections as well as the one for the police and crime commissioner.

There are currently 45 seats on the city council which has been Liberal Democrat-controlled since May 2019. They hold 26 seats, the Conservatives have 15 and three independents, all former Tory councillors. One seat is vacant following the resignation of Kim Gottlieb last year.

The Lib Dems hold eight of the seats being contested, as opposed to six Tory and one independent, Lisa Griffiths.

For the Conservatives to take control of the council they would need to win at least five Lib Dem seats.

Council leader Lucille Thompson told the Chronicle: “We’ve had a great response on the doorstep with residents telling us they don’t want to see a return to Conservative rule at the city council.

“They particularly like what we’ve been doing on increasing our recycling rates and cutting the council’s carbon footprint and are impressed with our council house building programme. They want us to ensure that our businesses and communities recover strongly from the pandemic, which we will of course continue to focus on as we move forward, and the initiatives such as pedestrianising The Square and bringing markets to the Broadway that are helping the city recover.

“There’s a lot of comment about the county council. Residents have seen them hike council tax to record levels and yet our roads and pavements are falling apart.”

Conservative group leader Caroline Horrill said: “The Liberals Democrats have done little more in two years than put up taxes and charges to hit residents hard in the pocket during these challenging times. They have taken none of the major projects forward, they tried to stop the sport and leisure centre at Bar End but now it is nearly completed they claim it as their own.

“The last two years have been a talking shop with long-drawn-out consultation on issues that thousands of residents have already told us about, such as Central Winchester. What residents tell us they want is action, not to kick the tough decisions down the road.”

The Tories also say they will reverse evening and Sunday parking charges.

For Labour, former councillor Patrick Davies said: “As we recover from the Covid pandemic the regeneration of our city centre is vital. We need a wide range of views about the future of empty sites, with full and open public involvement. A group of Labour councillors would be an enormous benefit to our city. Proper democracy does not flourish when so few different opinions can be expressed in the council chamber.”

Mr Davies said Labour would insist on a first class new bus station in the city centre, essential for residents and visitors alike.

The Greens are also contesting most of the seats. Candidate Max Priesemann said: “With a vote for the Greens locals can demonstrate their desire to transition to a green wellbeing economy that is based on local businesses and neighbourhoods.

“Many vulnerable people had to rely on local communities during the pandemic. We want to strengthen local initiatives and local businesses.”

A proposal is to build ultra-low energy Passive Houses on inner-city car parks such as St Peter’s off Gordon Road in Hyde.

“We should limit new housing developments to the need for council and truly affordable homes on brownfield sites only. We should not build housing developments for capital investment on green land as this will only create a new housing bubble and destroy our valuable countryside for ever.”