The decision to approve Allies and Morrison’s reworked proposals for Silver Hill in Winchester has been branded ‘a victory for barbarity and bureaucratic expediency’
Last night (11 December) Winchester City Council rubberstamped controversial amendments to already consented plans, dating back to 2009, for a £165million city centre redevelopment backed by TIAA Henderson Real Estate.
The revisions, which were met with anger and prompted hundreds to take to the street in protest last month (see AJ 30.11.14) , will see the original proposals for a new bus station scrapped, the number of homes reduced from 287 to 177, and all the on-site affordable housing removed.
Reacting to the news, councillor Kim Gottlieb who runs the Winchester Deserves Better campaign website and who has already been granted a High Court hearing to challenge the plans, said: ‘The stupidity of the decision to approve Silver Hill is as monumental as the architecture and just as ugly. It represents a victory for barbarity and bureaucratic expediency.
‘The pressure from the Council to approve the scheme was intense and there are definitely questions that will be asked about process.’
Gottlieb confirmed the campaign against the scheme would go on. He added: ‘Fortunately, it doesn’t represent the end of the battle to save Winchester. Our next stop will be in the High Court in late January when we’ll seek to prove that the City Council failed to comply with procurement regulations. We’re also planning other legal actions and events.’
Developer Henderson insisted the changes to the scheme would help better integrate Friarsgate into the city centre, through the use of high quality public landscaping, transforming it into a ‘tree-lined boulevard’.
Martin Perry, director of development at TIAA Henderson Real Estate, said: ‘“The design team has worked hard, with a critical eye, to ensure that the final scheme is one that we can all be proud of. The consented alterations ensure that the scheme is the best for today’s environment.
‘Throughout this process we have listened to local people and businesses, and worked closely with the City Council to ensure that we are proposing the right scheme for the City – one that will deliver the new shops, homes, public amenities and jobs that Winchester desperately needs.
‘We know that our proposal already had the backing of both residents and local businesses, so I’m very pleased that elected councillors have now given it the green light.
‘We now want to get on with delivering this high quality development that the people of Winchester can be proud of.’
Winchester-based architect Huw Thomas said that the planning meeting had been ‘a farce’.
‘The scheme architect showed CGIs but not one of them clearly showed any of the streets they will create – not one. If they had, they’d have been in trouble,’ he said.
‘Much mention was made of how the architects have picked up on the form of the city’s ancient streets – but while they may have done so in width, no mention was made of the heights to which these buildings will soar.’
City resident Rosemary Burns said planning committee members had displayed a ‘fundamental lack of understanding’ of their role and had allowed themselves to be persuaded that plans to regenerate the area would go back to square one if the proposals were not approved.
‘There are architects and developers who would jump at the chance to provide their services,’ she said.
‘The Broadway & Friarsgate Planning Brief commissioned by the council in 2003 was widely applauded, but largely discounted by the developers in planning the consented scheme.
‘It envisaged a sensitive re-development with a harmonious mixture of architectural styles and enhancement of the public realm. This is what Winchester needs and wants, but will not now get.’
Scot Masker, director at Pro Vision Planning & Design, which has a base near Winchester, said the proposals would have ‘highly detrimental’ effects for the city.
‘More than the architectural arguments, what’s most disturbing to me is the way the city council has rode roughshod over planning policy in allowing the developer to evade its obligation to deliver affordable housing in the city centre,’ he said.
‘What Winchester needs is a diverse, balanced, mixed community in its city centre. The last thing it needs to become is another high-net-worth ghetto.’