THE indicative images of a proposal for central Winchester (formerly known as Silver Hill) provided by Tom Pocock in last week’s Chronicle (June 6) should be applauded for giving us something to look at and to reflect upon. 

The Friarsgate Surgery may have become a park (of sorts) and Kings Walk may have received what the late great Huw Thomas would have called a layer of lipstick, but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen anything by way of new development proposals for the city’s most important development site. 

Hampshire Chronicle:

Major regeneration is inevitably a slow process but it’s been six years since the city council adopted the supplementary planning document for the project, and more than two years since it began its search for a development partner to make it happen. Now that the council has chosen its partner, a syndicate of four developers known as Jigsaw, there will be, hopefully, something to see some time soon, but, in the meantime, we have Tom’s images to stimulate debate.

I suspect that these images will be criticised for the ambitious, possibly grandiose, nature of the design created by AI. However, a key point to take from this exercise is that because a council can take a longer-term view of any financial returns as compared to any commercial developer, and because it can take include in its calculations the associated economic, social and cultural benefits that the scheme could provide for the whole city, it can afford to be ambitious. 

Such ambition should be apparent in the quality of the design and in the provision of public space, but whether this has been allowed for in the context of the contract between the council and Jigsaw has yet to be revealed.

Tom's efforts also serve to remind the council, should it need reminding, of the considerable and enduring interest of local residents in this important project.  Relative to most comparable centres Winchester’s High Street has held its own, but it remains under stress and it needs the support that a well-considered regeneration of Silver Hill could provide. Here’s hoping.

Kim Gottlieb

East Stratton