Councillors have signalled their intention to drop Allies and Morrison’s controversial, long-running plans for central Winchester after losing patience with the developer
A meeting of the council last week voted to terminate its development agreement with TH Real Estate to build the mixed-use, retail-led Silver Hill scheme which was drawn up more than six years ago.
The decision is set to be ratified by a cabinet meeting next week - unless the developer comes forward with assurances on affordable housing and funding which the council has been seeking for almost a year.
Council leader Stephen Godfrey said: ‘I am disappointed that TH Real Estate appears unable to go unconditional with the scheme, although they do still have a few more days.
‘Our decision at council was the sensible one: it is time to draw a line under this scheme, pause for breath and consider afresh how best to regenerate this important site.
‘TH Real Estate remains a significant land holder at Silver Hill and the council hopes to work with it in seeking a way forward.’
A report considered by councillors last week found that agreements with housing and funding partners have not been entered into by the developer.
It said that this meant that it was ‘highly unlikely’ that the developer would be able to fund compulsory purchase orders by a March deadline.
TH Real Estate had asked the council not to terminate its development agreement until nine months after an appeal – set for May – against a court decision that led to the re-adoption of the 2009 scheme.
In February last year a judge found the council had acted unlawfully in allowing the developer to revise plans without putting the scheme back out to commercial tender.
The 2009 scheme included 287 homes – 100 of which were to be ‘affordable’; 9,100m² of retail space; and a bus station. The 2014 revision reduced the housing to 177 units, with no on-site affordable provision, and also scrapped the bus station.
A statement from TH Real Estate said: ‘We are naturally very disappointed at the council’s decision and will be considering our position once we have received formal notification from the council.’
Legal advice to the council said that the chance of legal action by the developer is low.
Councillor Kim Gottlieb, who brought the court case against the schemes revisions, has fought the scheme from the start.
He said: ‘I am pleased this scheme seems to be on its last legs. But we now need to make sure the site is properly developed.
‘These proposals were a throwback to the 1980s and we now have an opportunity to get a variety of architects on board to design something more suited to Winchester.’