WINCHESTER civic chiefs have been urged to postpone their fresh attempt to revive the Station Approach scheme in Winchester.

The city council has announced it is investigating a new multi-million scheme after a previous one was derailed by legal action in 2019 and put into storage by Covid in 2020.

For the first time the council is involving Network Rail into looking at development in the area between Newburgh Street and the Cattle Market car park.

The issues was discussed at the scrutiny committee and several members of the people addressed the committee, with one urging caution.

Imogen Dawson, of Worthy Lane, told the committee on Wednesday, July 13: "We are in a period of huge instability, with Covid, the cost of living, climate change and war in Ukraine. I would urge you to hit the pause button now. How will you manage Silver Hill, River Park Leisure Centre and Station Approach. Will the city become one huge building site?"

READ MORE: What you should know about the history of the Station Approach scheme in Winchester

Ms Dawson called for any development to be houses and flats and not shops and offices.

But Gavin Hunter, chief operating officer at Winchester University, said: "The new vision for mixed use development provides a really good gateway to the city. The site is an exciting opportunity for the city and the university."

Chris Higgins, the now-retired director of estates at Winchester University, urged the council to speak to Design Engine, the local architects involved in previous schemes. "They worked for six months on the last abortive competition, they know the site backwards and spent months arguing with council officers that their brief was completely wrong. It is important we learn from the mistakes of the past.

"Design Engine were very badly treated by senior officers who have left the council, in the previous scheme."

Hampshire Chronicle:

Council leader Martin Tod said officers were going to meet Design Engine soon.

Nicholas John, an architect of Gladstone Street, called for a different type of scheme to the previous one which involved a huge office block: "It should not be development-driven, money-driven. If you are going to learn from the mistakes of the past you have got to have the local voice of residents from day one, local architects and not just Design Engine".

Cllr Tod said nothing was predetermined and it may be that after analysis the scheme is not currently viable then it would be dropped. But he added: "We strongly believe there is a great opportunity for restarting Station Approach. But we can't carry on as we did before. The context has changed. Covid has changed the way people move and work.

"The first stage is a listening process that tells us if we have a project that is a goer. This project will only succeed if we work closely with local people and businesses. He said any development on the Cattle Market and Worthy Lane car parks would need to dovetail with the major new park and ride being planned for north Winchester, "otherwise we will send more traffic into the one-way system".

"This is not Stalinist Russia, nor 1850s Paris. We are not going to sit down and write a big plan and say 'this is it' with no flexibility or ability to adjust".

A small 200-space park and ride is due at Kings Barton within the next two-three years, said Cllr Tod, but the biggest site is still undetermined.

The public consultation with neighbours and station users was due this summer but will be extended to the end of September.

If a scheme is deemed viable then a masterplan will be drawn up by summer 2023 with more public consultation.

Conservative group leader Caroline Horrill said it was important that such a major scheme involved consultation with the whole district. "What else can you do to ensure that people don't feel this is being foisted on them and are being asked to pay for it?"

A report to the scrutiny committee said the chances of further legal challenges would be reduced by a clear distinction between decisions the city council makes as landowner and decisions as planners. "Appropriate ethical walls will be established to ensure the necessary functions are separate and carried out by different parts and personnel within the council."

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