SIR: I wrote to you in November about the need for the public sector to have a sufficient corporate brain to be able to function effectively, both in providing services and outsourcing these. There is a need to have enough people with the relevant experience and expertise.

The unfolding debacle on River Park has demonstrated all too clearly the concern I was raising in relation to Winchester City Council. Whatever your view on the proposed deal with Southampton University and whether the site should remain as public land, it is fundamental to get the procedures right, otherwise the council risks a judicial review - this was the case here, meaning that the original cabinet decision needs to be rescinded.

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If this was a one off occurrence, it would just be viewed as unfortunate. But this keeps happening, especially on the council’s own schemes. By way of examples since the current Administration took over, the Station Approach planning permission had to be revoked following a judicial review challenge on procedural irregularities; that site still languishes as a result. This happened again on the Vaultex site, where the council had to start again with a fresh planning application.

However, there has been no rethink of approach, no resignation by cabinet members, no change in consultants, notwithstanding the issues. It would seem that there is not the corporate brain to learn from the mistakes.

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This is a particular concern as the Administration is proposing to start a process to find a developer for the Central Winchester Regeneration site. It has chosen a procurement method which could be too expensive for many potential partners. Furthermore, by not having any masterplan, the process is already attracting the wrath of the sort of people who have in the past threatened or brought judicial reviews. Given the council’s track record, it would seem reasonable to expect that this will put off other potential applicants.

It would therefore seem sensible to take a different course, ensuring that the council has the right expertise to progress and does so in a manner which builds consensus rather than invites challenge.

Hugh Lumby,

Meon Valley division, Hampshire County Council,

Upper Meon Valley ward, Winchester City Council,

High Street,