COUNCIL chiefs have confirmed that Kings Walk is to be demolished under plans to develop a “vibrant cultural quarter”.

A Central Winchester Regeneration Open Forum tonight (Monday) was told that the major scheme to transform the area will include the pulling down of Kings Walk “in a few years’ time”.

Ahead of any application for that part of the city, Winchester City Council has said that an interim plan is for a cultural and creative hub, using the existing premises.

Cllr Kelsie Learney, cabinet member for housing and asset management, said: “We are treating it as a meanwhile or interim use while full plans for the site are under development. So, what we are looking to do is create the core of the cultural and creative hub in there, we have already got the Nutshell Theatre and a number of creative businesses and those aimed at younger people, moving on we want to brighten up the whole area, make it more vibrant and more attractive.

“We have got a number of artists and people working in the creative field who are already very interested in moving in there.”

As a part of the scheme, the authority has confirmed that it has plans to transform the current loading bay into a performance space with some “interesting designs” drawn up.

It comes as two shops in Kings Walk are facing eviction, Sunflowers Emporium and Sukee Market.

Cllr Learney said: “The concept of a vibrant cultural quarter was central to the SPD (supplementary planning document) and Kings Walk is our first step to achieving that change and moving to a less traditional retail offer.

“So, all our tenants have been on very short-term leases and in the cases of those who are leaving, in one case they are going to the High Street, in the others we have actually extended their leases so they can trade through their busiest time of the year, but we do need to make a success of this cultural and creative hub concept so that we can demonstrate that it can be integral to a final development solution after Kings Walk is demolished, which we do now expect to happen in a few years’ time.

“It is very difficult needing to ask tenants to leave but this is part of the process of redeveloping the whole site.”

Plans for Kings Walk are coupled with those for the disused Friarsgate Surgery. Full plans for Friarsgate will be published on the council’s website tomorrow (Tuesday).

Speaking about Friarsgate, Veryan Lyons, head of programme for Central Winchester Regeneration, said: “Because we sit in a conservation area, we couldn’t demolish Friarsgate without explaining and putting in a planning application for what we would be putting in its place, so we have been working really closely with colleagues across the council and also with the design teams at Arup and we started to think how the site would look if we brought down the Kings Walk building. Really key was to start opening up the desire lines, the sightlines, the permeability to start to get people to understand that in the future it’s not going to be a little island site, it will be fully connected.”

As previously reported, Friarsgate will be demolished, but the council has now said that due to costs plans have been developed using the existing footprint of the building. The proposal includes putting in planters, seating, and working with the Winchester School of Art around exhibition space and Play to the Crowd regarding performances.