Getting a better scheme for Winchester – my speech last week on Silver Hill

Last week’s full council meeting about Silver Hill is on the front page of the Hampshire Chronicle today.  Here’s what I said in the meeting (give or take a few words here and there):

Madam Mayor

Too much of our discussion this evening has been obsessed about procurement law, process, risk and profit.

Forgive me, but I think what we need to be obsessed about is getting a better scheme for Winchester – better than the one we have today

There has been definite progress vs. the 2014 scheme.  We have a bus station.  We have affordable housing – two things that the Liberal Democrats and many others have pushed for.

At the current time, no-one has proposed – and no outside advisor has identified – a robust plan that outlines a timely plan for development of the site – and guarantees features such as a bus station and social housing – in the event that the Development Agreement is terminated.

I agree that this is urgently needed – it’s something I’ve asked for at Overview and Scrutiny – and it would be irresponsible to take a decision without having this clarity.

We have at least 6 options:

  • Continue as we are
  • Continue as we are and seek and achieve improvements
  • Some want to retender the current contract.
  • Some want to start the current process again from scratch.
  • Some want to start again with a new Masterplanning approach
  • Some want to allow piecemeal development

These are 6 different options. Each option has different impacts on cost, on timing, on the council’s finances and on whether we are able to achieve important public benefits such as a bus station and social housing.

We have no clarity on any of these options – and it would be wrong to terminate without that clarity

While people rightly have concerns about the design, the design and the development agreement are not the same thing… And if they were, then retendering the contract would mean that we ended up with the same problem.

The Development Agreement does not specify the detailed design of the site – and many of the features that residents are rightly concerned about – that we in the Liberal Democrats are concerned about – that I am concerned about – such as:

  • the height of the development,
  • the quality of the buildings fronting onto the street, especially in Friarsgate,
  • the layout of the street plan –

are not specified in the Development Agreement.

It also includes elements that are not in the development agreement such as the office space, the youth club – which has been provided by St John’s – and the RAOB club

These were covered in the Planning Permission – which did not form part of the Judicial Review – and can, in principle, be changed, amended, adjusted or resubmitted without changing the Development Agreement.

Most of the objectives of the Development Agreement – including:

  • A bus station with 12 parking bays, 3 layover bays and toilets
  • 287 units of housing – including 100 affordable units, of which 20 are social rented
  • An area for relocation of the market – including a bin store and compactor
  • A civic square
  • Maintenance of current levels of retail (>90,000 square feet)

remain desirable objectives for the site.

There is dispute about the level of parking. But there are genuine questions about what flexibility the Development Agreement gives us about parking – which unfortunately cannot be discussed in open session.

Ultimately our problem is not with the Development Agreement – it is the design of the scheme against the development agreement.

We need to see change.  We need to see improvements.  And we believe it is possible – without changing the development agreement.

But we don’t want to accept the motion unamended, because that closes off the opportunity to terminate the agreement in the event that we don’t get the changes we need.

We need to see improvements.

And if we don’t see improvements, we have to have the ability to terminate the deal with clarity about the way forward from that point.

And that is why I ask you to support Councillor Thompson’s amendment.

Posted in Planning, Silver Hill, Winchester | Leave a comment

Conservative plans for ‘right to buy’ are bonkers and will mean we lose a large proportion of council housing in Winchester.

The Conservatives have announced plans to force councils to sell off the most expensive 210,000 council houses and use the money to pay for a national programme of ‘right to buy’ for housing associations right across the country.

For Winchester this will be a catastrophe!

Why?

First, nearly half (48%) of all councils have sold off or transferred their council housing to housing associations.  Only around have of all councils actually have any council housing at all, and only the councils that do will be paying for this national programme: Winchester is one of them.

This unavoidably means that sales of council housing in Winchester (and other areas with council housing) will be subsidising ‘right to buy’ in the rest of the country. And because we haven’t transferred our council housing to housing associations, we also have less housing association housing than other areas – and so our area will get even less of this money!

To put it another way, 52% of councils – including Winchester – will be subsidising ‘right to buy’ in the other 48% of council areas.

The second problem is that Winchester is an expensive area – in the top 10% of the country for house prices – which means that a much higher proportion of our council housing will be amongst the most expensive 5% of council housing in the country and so will have to be sold when it becomes free.  We have a completely disproportionate share of the ‘most valuable 210,000 properties’ that the Conservatives are planning on using to fund the scheme.  As soon as a family home becomes available, it won’t be used to support people in housing need, but will be flogged off on the open market to pay for ‘right to buy’ somewhere else in the country.  And because the biggest cost relating to housing is the cost of the land, we won’t be able to afford to build many replacements.  At best, the only type of new council housing we could manage each time we were forced to sell a family homes would be a small flat – and that doesn’t help tackle our affordable housing problem.

So the net effect of this policy is a disaster.  A large proportion of our council housing – especially bigger family homes – will have to be sold off.  And our area will see hardly any of the money.

It’s completely bonkers. And another reason to vote for Jackie Porter as the only way to stop the Tories in Winchester on May 7.

Posted in Blog, Housing, Winchester | 1 Comment

Cherry picker in Tower Street

A resident asked me about the cherry picker in Tower Street.  Here’s the answer I received:

‘The works that are being undertaken in Tower Street relate to on-going maintenance work by BAM Construction to the elevations of Elizabeth II Court. Due to the location and nature of the works these are weather dependant and have resulted in the cherry picker remaining on the road for longer than originally anticipated. Hampshire County Council and BAM are sorry for any inconvenience this is causing to residents.

The siting of the cherry picker in the residential parking bays is necessary to enable uninterrupted access to Tower Street by pedestrians and vehicles. All options for the siting of the cherry picker were considered before progressing with this work and BAM are keeping the number of bays used to a minimum.

This week, work is progressing well due to the spring weather, and BAM Construction are hoping to be in a position to hand back a number of car parking spaces by the end of the week. BAM are also aiming to have work to the Tower Street elevation completed by the end of April, but once again, this date is weather dependent.’

Posted in Parking, Winchester | 1 Comment

If you’re interested in development planning in Winchester, you’re in for a busy week!

Lots on this week.

The big topic is ‘Local Plan Part 2’.  This is due to set our detailed local planning policy – mainly what type of buildings and other developments go where – for the Winchester District until 2031 – so it’s important to get it right.  To this end, a group of local organisations are running a briefing and discussion evening on the evening of Tuesday 11th of November. The City Council will be running a consultation the following day.

A more immediate issue is the plan to redevelop the Police Headquarters in Romsey Road. The Hampshire Chronicle has a useful article covering the recent past of the site. As it says:

Outline planning consent for 294 flats, access and parking was granted in 2007 and then extended in 2010.

However the proposals are likely to be quite different and it will be important to see how they match up to local housing needs, to the design of the area and whether they provide sufficient local infrastructure.

Finally, if you feel like building something yourself, RIBA South has organised a Winchester Design Day at the Guildhall featuring a bunch of local architects!

Date Time Place Event Who
Tue 11 Nov 7.30-9.30pm United Church, Jewry Street Shaping our future: the Local Plan for Winchester District City of Winchester Trust, FoE Winchester, WinACC and WACA
Wed 12 Nov 3.00-8.30pm Discovery Centre, Jewry Street Official WCC Consultation on Local Plan Part 2 Winchester City Council
Thu 13 Nov 5.00-8.00pm St Paul’s Church Hall, St Paul’s Hill Exhibition of proposals for redevelopment of the Hampshire Police HQ Adams Hendry on behalf of Berkeley Homes
Sat 15 Nov 12.30-2.30pm
Sat 15 Nov 10.00-2.30pm Bapsy Hall, Guildhall, The Broadway Winchester Design Day 2014 RIBA South
Posted in Planning, St Paul | Leave a comment

Will 20 mph be enforced in Winchester? Here’s the answer…

Following a recent report in the Hampshire Chronicle, there’s been quite a bit of confusion about whether 20 mph will be enforced in Winchester or not.

In order to sort this out, I wrote to the Police Commissioner and the Chief Constable – and now I have their answers.
more …

Posted in 20s plenty, Stanmore, Winchester | 2 Comments