WINCHESTER civic chiefs have revealed more details of the revamped £150 million city centre regeneration scheme.
Policymakers will meet on July 10 to consider whether to allow Henderson to apply for permission to change the Silver Hill scheme that received planning permission in 2009.
Henderson wants to increase the number of shops, drop any affordable housing and not build a bus station or offices.
The council has issued new images that show more of the scheme including the destruction of historic Cross Keys Passage, an alleyway dating back to the Middle Ages. One of the buildings will be demolished to widen the space.
The decision by cabinet on July 10 comes as city councillor Kim Gottlieb launched a campaign to get the council to radically alter the scheme. He wants it to be smaller without the large blocks, up to seven storeys high, that he says will dominate the city centre, even looming over the Brooks Centre.
Cllr Gottlieb, himself a chartered surveyor and developer, has launched a ‘Winchester Deserves Better’ website which has had more than 2,500 unique users in recent weeks and been backed by 250 people.
He said July 10 is the last chance for the council to have influence. He said: “The way the contract is drafted, the council now has the upper hand and great leverage which it can use to improve its position and to effect substantial changes of its choice. The moment the council gives Henderson permission to submit a planning application, all this negotiating strength will be surrendered – Sampson will have lost all his hair.
“The city council can and must completely revise the Silver Hill development proposal or face destroying an historic city centre for ever. I am not exaggerating the possible calamitous effects.”
The council disputes Cllr Gottlieb’s interpretation and says the changes are “sensible updates”.
Vicki Weston, deputy city council leader, said: “I cannot agree with those who say ‘Winchester deserves better’. I say that Winchester deserves the best and this is the best – best for the local economy, best for Winchester people and best for replacing an eyesore with an eye-catching addition to our beautiful city.
“Councillors and officers have been working hard over the past 12 months with the architects (Allies and Morrison) and our development partner, TIAA Henderson Real Estate, to fine-tune the approved scheme and make sure it is the best it can be after nearly 20 years of waiting.”
Among those supporting Cllr Gottlieb’s campaign is Alex Edwards, owner of Cadogan boutique on The Square. He said: “The council has said on their website that ‘the additional retail space will reinforce the strength of Winchester’s town centre and complement our thriving independent retail sector’, but I understand the council’s own retail consultant said Silver Hill would largely draw its trade away from the High Street, and so the decline of the heart of the city will begin.
“Trade for all retailers paying shop rents and rates has been made that much more difficult by the evolution in online retailing since the scheme was devised, and it can only make things worse for independent retailers like me, never mind its sheer bulk and ugliness,” added Mr Edwards.