City Council leaders were accused of repeating history as the next step to complete Silver Hill was taken.

On Wednesday, members of Winchester City Council approved the outline of the business case for a major inner city redevelopment, also known as Central Winchester Regeneration (CWR).

After nearly three hours of debate and questions, 21 councilors voted in favor, 13 voted against and 6 abstained.

The decision will see the council go through a procurement process to find a single development partner, which has drawn criticism from opposition councilors and some residents.

Cllr Kelsie Learney, Cabinet Member for Housing and Asset Management, said the CWR’s Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) was passed in 2018 to create a mixed-use development.

She said: “We are now at the point where we have to stop talking about it and take this big step forward.

“It is inevitable that some members will have reservations, it is a complex issue, there have already been several false starts and vocal opponents, although less now than in the past. There will be doubts, although a Considerable work has been done to mitigate the risk and address the concerns.

READ MORE: Winchester City Council approves next step for Silver Hill

The council has considered redeveloping the area since the late 1980s and two major projects have collapsed; the first by Thornfield due to the economic downturn of the late 2000s and the second by Henderson after a legal challenge by Cllr Kim Gottlieb in 2015-16.

Conservative Councilor Stephen Godfrey has expressed concern over the single-developer approach, which was opposed 20 years ago.

“Today the City Council, with the same Councilor Learney with all her experience, is looking to appoint a single development partner, very similar approach, it failed last time so I’m sure it will work differently this time” , he said sarcastically.

“Giving control of a development to a partner, even considered to share our objectives, our values, our willingness to give up normal profit on the project, will pass the baton to a partner who will lead the development and demand a minimum return funding for their efforts and investment.

Conservative City Council leader Caroline Horrill said: “I and the Conservative group wholeheartedly support the regeneration of Central Winchester. We are indeed the owners of the SPD, the initiators of this. I also know how much residents want to see progress on the site. Unfortunately, we have before us today a cabinet minute that has learned nothing from our past experiences. It’s missing some fundamental issues that we need to address, and I’m afraid it’s taking us down a path that won’t deliver the SPD.

As Independent Councilor Victoria Weston told the council: ‘I feel like history is repeating itself. We went down this road and it took us over a cliff, we tried to hang on and make it work, but we couldn’t, we couldn’t with one developer.

Cllr Charles Radcliffe urged the council to commission its own master plan, working closely with local architects, which “will result in more varied, more organic and built to our specification”.

Cllr Horrill moved an amendment returning the business case to cabinet and urging the board to follow the SPD, including a program delivery phase with separate developers. It was rejected.

SEE ALSO: What Silver Hill in Winchester might have looked like if those old plans had been approved

Other advisers, including Lib Dem Paula Ferguson, backed the business case. She said: ‘I think it is fair that the scheme is not primarily assessed on the financial return to the board. This program that has been proposed is clearly about the social and economic benefits it will bring to the city and the district at large.

City Council leader Lucille Thompson accused the Tories of putting the city down. She continued: “Let’s not forget this is one of the best opportunities in decades for a development partner to work with the City Council to transform the central area of ​​Winchester. In the wake of the uncertainty of the pandemic, we are now poised to create new dynamism in our city through a major regeneration project that puts sustainability at its heart.

“Many local people and businesses have urged us to keep going. Building in Winchester is never easy but this is such an exciting opportunity moving forward do we really want to delay this project again and let our town decline for another indefinite period or do we want to be bold and take that next step.

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