Myth-busting: Silver Hill

The Developer keeps changing the scheme – which one is the Council now considering?

The scheme for the regeneration of Silver Hill received planning consent in 2009. Last year it was proposed to make some modifications to the scheme and the Council approved these, but for legal reasons they cannot be agreed. So the scheme we’re considering is the one that was approved in 2009 and all the answers below relate to this scheme – ‘the 2009 scheme’.

Silver Hill will provide no affordable housing

The 2009 Scheme will provide 100 affordable homes in accordance with the requirements of the Development Agreement. 20 will be for social rent and 80 for shared ownership.

Silver Hill will dwarf the city

The buildings in the scheme are taller than some in the immediate vicinity but they do not compete with any of the City’s historic buildings. In fact the development opens up new views of landmarks such as the Guildhall and the Cathedral. The tallest part of the scheme (currently the location of Iceland and the Friarsgate car park) is seven storeys - 23.7m - at its highest point. The architects have varied the height to avoid the appearance of a monolithic block. The scheme as a whole scales down in height with successively lower blocks towards the St John’s Almshouses.

The Silver Hill development will ruin the city

The scheme has been carefully designed by a world-leading firm of architects to complement the city’s historic architecture. English Heritage has supported the scheme, and it is endorsed by an independent Design Review Panel. The development brings £150m investment into the city and replaces a run-down area with attractive public squares, shops, homes, cafes, water features and public art.

Silver Hill will damage existing shops/there will be insufficient demand for new retail outlets

There is no reason to believe that there will be a mass exodus from the High Street. The 2009 scheme does not increase the amount of retail space that is currently in the area but it does increase its quality. There is strong interest in the new units at Silver Hill from retailers who are not currently in the city. The retail model they operate is different, with more ‘click-and-collect’ and similar services, but there remains a strong desire to have a town centre presence.

Winchester is a highly attractive location for new retail units because it has a successful and prosperous economy, many tourists and day visitors, excellent food and drink outlets and independent shops.

The addition of carefully planned retail space in a thriving town centre does not hurt existing shops; it helps to ensure that they have enough customers in the future by encouraging people to do their shopping in Winchester rather than going elsewhere.

A full report on the likely effects of Silver Hill undertaken by respected retail consultants supported the conclusion that Silver Hill will be successful.

There’s no bus station – and Winchester should have a new bus station

Yes there is. The 2009 scheme does include a bus station with 12 bus stands/ bays, a waiting room, a ticket office and public toilets.

The 2014 scheme included a bus interchange with similar facilities but with bus bays/stands on Friarsgate and in The Broadway. The Council was happy with this arrangement but a lot of people in the town were not. So they should be pleased that this will now feature in the scheme.

The bus operator has indicated that they are willing to manage a new bus station although it was also happy with the alternative arrangements.

There has been a lack of public consultation about the proposals

There has been extensive public consultation about the proposals over many years. Part of the problem in explaining this is that the process has gone on for so long that people have moved into the area and may not have take part in earlier stages. There have been public meetings, exhibitions, widespread publicity and the full range of open democratic public meetings at which people can speak and make representations.

Winchester deserves better

Winchester deserves the best and, after many years of planning and debate, the City Council believes that the proposed development is the best – best for the local economy, best value for taxpayers and best for revitalising a dilapidated area of the city.

There is huge opposition to the proposals

There is cross-party support on the City Council for the proposals from those democratically elected to represent people in the Winchester district. There is strong support from the Business Improvement District (BID). From numbers attending meetings and following social media sites, there appear to be a couple of hundred supporters of the campaign opposing the scheme. Several hundreds commented on the planning application, both for and against the scheme - a significant per percentage of comments had no address and were generated via a single website. The march of 29 November included a wide range of groups in addition to those who said they opposed to the Silver Hill development.

If you go ahead it is only to stop the Council being sued by the developer

No, if the scheme goes ahead it will because elected Members consider that is the right thing to do to regenerate the Silver Hill area – something which everyone agrees needs to happen. We have taken careful legal advice on the contractual position and Members will have all the advice they need to make their informed judgements.

It would be easy and quick to get an alternative scheme with everything we want in it from another developer

Winchester is an attractive place, and there’s no doubt that there are development opportunities. But the cost of acquiring land and developing is also high. There is no such thing as a ‘not for profit’ development – the cost of land, construction, architects fees, services and planning contributions like affordable housing all have to be met from the increase in value that a development creates. That doesn’t mean that there is only one answer but any development will be driven by the same underlying economics.

To achieve a different form of comprehensive development with a bus station will need a new planning framework, planning permission, compulsory purchase order and procurement process. This would take several years. It has been claimed that the Council is overly pessimistic about this timetable – but no one has produced any alternative.

Developing individual bits of the area, so-called ‘piecemeal’ development would make it much harder to obtain a new bus station and a coordinated public realm. It might make it harder to obtain affordable housing as well.