Leader of Winchester City Council, Cllr Robert Humby - 27 November 2014
This weekend (29 November) will see a march about a number of major schemes under discussion across the City. As a democrat I always welcome such opportunities to hear public opinion. My own view is that the Council has done a good job on consulting about matters as diverse as Silver Hill or the Station Approach area. But I am ready to meet with representatives of any of the groups present to hear how we could do better.
What none of us must lose sight of is the bigger picture. I believe all the projects which understandably attract so much interest are vital to the future of our City. The City is growing, with over 2,000 new homes planned or being built. The City Centre needs to offer more to those new residents or they will go elsewhere – and Silver Hill is designed to do just that. We must protect jobs and provide new ones for existing and new residents or else we will become a commuter suburb – that is why we’re looking at the Carfax and Cattle Market sites to see whether they can meet demands for better business space. As our population ages so we must meet the needs of older people, which is why I support an Extra Care Housing on the Chesil Surface Car Park.
Many of these projects will give the Council a rental income. I make no bones about that. In times of austerity I want to keep local taxes down. But with Government grant dwindling we must earn money to protect our services. The alternative is a series of cuts which will help none of us.
We must, of course, get these projects right. Development must be sensitive and address the concerns of local residents. Consultation is important, but I doubt it will ever lead to consensus.
Let us not pretend we can put our heads in the sand or somehow hold back the tides of change. Of one thing I am certain: if we do not respond to the challenges facing our retail sector, local jobs, housing and public services then the City will decline. I am sure no one wants that.
So I’m happy to meet anyone with concerns. But I don’t simply want to be told that things mustn’t change. That’s not an option. What I would welcome is a constructive dialogue about our collective future.