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Design review panel tells Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands to rethink Winchester scheme

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Architecture experts have raised ‘concern’ over the height of Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ mixed-use overhaul of a key site in Winchester

The Winchester with Eastleigh Design Review Panel (WEDRP) called for a rebalancing of elements of the Station Approach proposals in comments published last week.

But in a preface to its report, the panel also expressed concern that it was inadequate to consider a scheme of this size and significance, and that, in line with CABE guidance, it should properly be reviewed by a regional or national panel such as Design Council CABE or Design South East.

Backed by Winchester City Council, the development would create 13,000m² of offices alongside retail, café and restaurant space on land in the Hampshire city currently occupied by trees and ground-level parking spaces.

A number of objections to the scheme have been raised. Notes published from a meeting held earlier this month between council planning officers and members of the WEDRP read: ‘Concern was expressed as to the overall height of the scheme, particularly in regards to the long-distance views across the city. Every opportunity to reduce this intrusion should be taken.’

The document added: ‘There appears to be a clash between building forms and scale in respect of the main Carfax buildings and the two smaller gable-fronted buildings which front Sussex Street and Station Hill.

‘These buildings provide a residential appearance and on Sussex Street appear as a false façade to the connected main office building, which is unnecessary within the overall appearance of the scheme.’

Every opportunity to reduce this intrusion should be taken

Calling for a fresh look at the scheme, the panel urged the architects to consider relocating floor space from the larger buildings to the smaller ones ’to address the imbalance of scale between the two’.

Panel members also argued for a larger public space to be included, potentially containing a work of art.

Meanwhile the Winchester Action on Climate Change body said it was ‘very concerned’ that the scheme was ‘at odds’ with transport blueprint the City of Winchester Movement Strategy and ‘the need for Winchester to react sensibly to the climate emergency’.

Among other demands, the body said the practice should ‘design attractive interconnections with all nine bus routes that pass close to the station’.

Local resident Patricia Fennell was one of several to object to the proposals. She criticised the loss of mature trees and added: ‘The height, scale, mass and design is out of keeping with the locality and will dwarf the listed former registry office and the station complex.’

Another member of the public Richard Baker said: ’If the city council as applicant was to make significant reductions in the amount of office floor space being sought, its appointed architect would be in a better position to produce a sensitive scheme, worthy of the site and the character of Winchester.’

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands won a RIBA-backed competition for the site back in 2017, defeating Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, BDP, Metropolitan Workshop with Henley Halebrown and Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt, and Rick Mather Architects.

Hopkins had been selected as ‘preferred bidder in principle’ following a previous design contest for the station approach project. But in summer 2016, councillors decided not to appoint the practice following concerns about potential overdevelopment of key gateway sites.

Urban design consultancy Publica and landscape designer Bradley-Hole Schoenaich Landscape have worked with Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands on the latest plans.

In documents submitted as part of the planning application, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands said the south and east façades of its scheme were extensively stepped to respond to the neighbouring context.

’Terracing occurs both in plan and section so that the upper floors of the offices step down from ground plus four storeys (and roof plant) to ground plus two storeys opposite the existing houses on Gladstone Street. At the south-east corner the offices give way to a two-storey restaurant/pub with gables similar to those at the north-west corner of the site.’

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands director Alex Lifschutz said in 2017: ‘We will be looking to maintain a sense of “Winchester” in the area. People need to know they have arrived in a special place steeped in culture, showcasing heritage and benefiting from open spaces.’

The practice and the city council have been contacted for comment. A decision on whether to approve the outline planning application has yet to be made. 

Project data

Public realm consultant Publica
Landscape architect Bradley-Hole Schoenaich Landscape
Structural engineer AKT II
MEP services Hilson Moran
Planning consultant Barton Willmore
Heritage consultant Heritage Architecture
Transport consultant i-Transport
Public engagement Iceni
Property consultant Vail Williams
Quantity surveyor Mace

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ masterplan for Winchester Station Approach

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ masterplan for Winchester Station Approach

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Readers' comments (1)

  • this scheme sadly only goes to highlight the architectural scale, nuance, delight, ingenuity and quality of the Hampshire County Councils existing library, all facets that appear so lacking in this proposal

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