THE third major attempt to revamp a large part of Winchester city centre has today passed a major milestone.

Today, the outline business case for the Central Winchester Regeneration area, better known as Silver Hill, has been approved by the city council Cabinet.

The meeting heard the scheme is viable and would be attractive to developers but opposition councillors raised concerns about the redevelopment of the area between The Broadway and Friarsgate, including the bus station and Kings Walk arcade.

The Liberal Democrat-controlled council envisages a mixed-use scheme including homes, offices, a hotel and open spaces.

It will now start the crucial search in 2022 for a development partner who shares the council's aims, a process that will take several months.


The Silver Hill site; inset, Cllr Kelsie Learney

The Silver Hill site; inset, Cllr Kelsie Learney


Cllr Kelsie Learney, cabinet member for asset management, said: "The message we are getting from the public is 'get on with it'. It is time we started talking Winchester up rather than down. I'm excited about where we are. We are seeing increasing interest not just in this site but elsewhere in the city.".

Cllr Martin Tod said: "This is an exciting and positive opportunity for the city that cannot be stuck in the past, but confidently moving forward.

"We need to have confidence in the city, we need to believe in the city. It is time to end the dither and delay; it is time to stop talking the city down and to move ahead."

But opposition Conservative councillors said they feared the council was making mistakes.

Cllr Hugh Lumby told Cabinet: "I’m afraid that process has made me increasingly nervous. Reading this paper, it is clear to me that this is not the right way to proceed. After 30 years doing regeneration and redevelopment projects, both for developers and authorities, it is clear that this one is unlikely to succeed. And if it does, it will be at too high a price to the council and its residents.

"The expressed viability is marginal. The result will be that it will be too expensive for smaller developers but too small for many bigger developers. The lack of return will put off many, whatever their size. And then there are the four successful judicial reviews against Winchester.

"Yes, we want to see Central Winchester redeveloped but not by this process. We are being misled on the financial case, we are going to struggle to attract bidders, we have no idea what we will get and whether it will be net zero or not, indeed we don’t even have a guarantee that a complete or even a partial scheme will emerge from this. All we know is that an opportunity to deliver is being wasted and all the residents will be poorer for it."


23 May 2014 - Winchester Election results - Caroline Horrill Conservative wins Sparsholt seat.

23 May 2014 - Winchester Election results - Caroline Horrill Conservative wins Sparsholt seat.


Conservative group leader Caroline Horrill is worried that the scheme will not adhere to the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) that was agreed with widespread public support in 2018. "Sadly today I see a proposal before Cabinet that has not learnt from our past experiences, is missing some fundamental issues we need to address and I fear is taking us along a path that will not deliver the SPD.

"I pledge if we are returned to lead the Council in May 2022 we will ensure proper oversight of this key project once again with all councillors and our residents, we commit to progressing with pace, we commit to following the SPD and we commit to getting something done. We managed the Sport and Leisure Park over the line despite the current administration trying to stop it. The devil is in the detail of this proposal. We can make Central Winchester happen, but not by taking the specific approach outlined today."

The Cabinet heard that safeguards would be embedded in any agreement with a developer to ensure the agreed scheme was delivered.

Senior council officer Veryan Lyons, head of programme, said: "This quite an exciting point in time; we are making progress."

She said the council was targeting the younger generation and overnight tourism. "We have a disparity in group demographics. We have a lot of students and fair proportion of retired. But in the middle we lose young people and young talent. What we are trying to do is fill that gap."

Previous schemes by developers Thornfield and Hendersons have foundered an economic issues and legal actions.

The Cabinet agreed the outline business case which will go to full Council in January for final approval.

Cllr Kelsie Learney, Cabinet Member for Housing and Asset Management said: “We are excited to be progressing with our proposals, including looking to appoint a development partner to work with us. This decision by Cabinet follows many months of work looking at the best way forward for the site and discussions with colleagues across the council and local residents, including at an Open Forum held on 22 November and a Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 6 December. We are looking forward now to discussing this at Full Council on 12 January, and keen to start the process of finding a great partner to work with us in the New Year.”

In public participation former city councillor Ian Tait addressed the Cabinet: "We are still years away from putting in a planning application. You should knock down Friarsgate Medical Centre now and build exemplar housing scheme next to the St John's almshouses, and kickstart the scheme. People in Winchester want to see something done. Be brave, get a planning application for Friarsgate. It would demonstrate you mean business."

Council leader Lucille Thompson said she wanted to demolish the empty building, "but we are having a bit of a battle with the planners."

Dr Phil Spencer, director of Winchester Business Improvement District, said the 700 BID members overwhelmingly supported the redevelopment.

READ MORE HERE: City council still 'getting it wrong' on Silver Hill

READ MORE HERE: Multi-million pound boost envisaged from Silver Hill

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