Plans to replace former Friarsgate Medical Centre community with open space
As part of its proposals to pave the way for the regeneration of Central Winchester, Winchester City Council has submitted a planning application to demolish the derelict Friarsgate Medical Centre and redevelop the site as a temporary area of public open space. The improvements will result in significant short-term community benefits for local people and enhanced public access through a key part of the city centre.
The medical centre has been empty since 2014. Its demolition will mark the start of the initial phase in the redevelopment of the Central Winchester Regeneration (CWR) area.
The plans for the former medical centre site have been influenced and informed by a public engagement exercise that took place in December 2021. International design practice Ove Arup & Partners are looking to incorporate a range of new public facilities to enhance the public realm including:
Installing a new timber decking bridge at the point where Friarsgate crosses the Itchen watercourse
Erecting a light timber fence along the south east corner of the site to ensure that the privacy of neighbouring residents is respected
Incorporating a large number of new trees, as well as wildflower and ornamental grass planting
Introducing seating – including picnic benches – to encourage people to make use of the newly-created spaces
Installing 10 new bike stands to encourage alternative methods of travel into the city from the private car
Incorporating a sensitive, sustainable lighting strategy to ensure public safety during evenings/night-time
The resulting open space will temporarily transform a run-down site in the city centre, inviting people to enjoy the space and making a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the area. It will also enhance the overall pedestrian experience by providing three new north-south access routes to Winchester Bus Station and the city centre.
The council will also move ahead with procuring a development partner to deliver the shared vision for the centre of the city that has been developed from extensive consultation. The wider proposals will result in a vibrant, new quarter for people living and working in and around the district including flexible workspace, retail and leisure facilities, high quality homes and an attractive public realm.
The council’s public consultation on its interim proposals for Friarsgate Medical Centre was conducted online and reflected the Central Winchester Regeneration (CWR) Supplementary Planning Document’s (SPD’s) aspirations for the CWR area to ‘ensure momentum for the regeneration process is maintained through visible changes which signal the beginnings of the mixed-use quarter.’ The consultation highlighted a desire among respondents for more green spaces within Winchester, with a strong focus on increasing biodiversity levels within the CWR. It also sought greater cycle stand provision, acknowledging the site’s close proximity to UK National Cycle Route 23.
The council has met with local groups and individuals to discuss how the use of the proposed new public realm can – while it is available – be optimised. A programme of public events and performances is envisaged and an information panel providing users with updates on activities will be included as part of the proposal. Security and management issues have also been discussed to ensure the space is safe for users at all times of day and night and the proposed landscaping elements are maintained to a high standard. Free Wi-Fi will be available in the space via the Council’s WinCityFree Wi-Fi service.
The planning application is currently being validated and documents are being uploaded. These will be available to view at www.winchester.gov.uk/planning
The submission of this application follows the recent announcement from the city council that it will be launching the procurement process for a development partner for the regeneration of Winchester city centre on 17 March 2022, which includes the site of the former Friarsgate Medical Centre.