Silver Hill is an area of central Winchester covering an area of approximately 2.3 hectares. It includes the Winchester Bus Station, Friarsgate medical centre, Kings Walk and the multi-storey Friarsgate car park amongst other areas and is in desperate need of regeneration.
Since the late 1990s Winchester City Council has been looking to comprehensively redevelop this area with a scheme that will bring new retail, residential and public areas.
The original Planning Brief was issued in 2003 and led the Council to enter into a Development Agreement with Thornfield Properties to promote a comprehensive redevelopment of the site, to include the use of compulsory purchase powers if necessary.
Planning consent was granted by Winchester City Council in 2009 for scheme which included:
When it become clear that the land necessary for the redevelopment would not be brought together by agreement between the owners and the Council, WCC agreed to make an order for the compulsory purchase of part of the scheme area.
Thornfield Properties subsequently went into administration during the credit crunch of 2008/09 and the share capital of Thornfield Properties was bought by the UK Property Fund of Henderson Global Investors. Henderson completed the deal in July 2011 and the scheme progressed once again with a CPO public inquiry undertaken in June 2012. It was subsequently approved by The Inspector and confirmed by the Secretary of State agreed in 2013.
Following the CPO, TIAA Henderson Real Estate sought changes to the 2009 consented scheme and a revised planning application for the area was approved at Planning Development Committee meeting of Winchester City Council on 11th December 2014. You can find reports and minutes of that meeting here.
This was hugely controversial as the revised scheme did not include a bus station (at the request of Stagecoach whose business had changed significantly in six years) and removed affordable housing from the development. TIAA Henderson Real Estate made just a £1m contribution (with a further £1m to follow) for off-site affordable housing in the District.
During this time, Cllr Kim Gottlieb formed the Winchester Deserves Better campaign which argued the scheme was out of keeping with Winchester as a historical city and launched a legal challenge (known as Judicial Review) to the decision by WCC to allow TIAA Henderson Real Estate to change the previously consented scheme. You can read more about this online but he argued at the High Court in London that such a fundamental change to the scheme required WCC to re-tender the contract in the open market under EU law.
A High Court Judge refused Cllr Gottlieb's application for Judicial Review in October 2014; you can read more about this here.
Early December 2014 saw a march in Winchester City centre calling (in-part) on WCC to think again about the Silver Hill scheme; reports suggested around 1000 attended the event which culminated with speeches outside the Guildhall in The Broadway.
Cllr Gottlieb sought leave to appeal the High Court decision of October 2014 and a new hearing was held at the end of January 2015. The Honourable Mrs Justice Lang DBE subsequently found against Winchester City Council meaning it must now re-open the tender EU wide to find a development partner for the Silver Hill site; you can read more about this here and read Judge Lang's judgement in full here.
You can read Cllr Gottlieb's response to this decision here >
You can read Cllr Rob Humby's statement as (then) Leader of Winchester City Council here >
You can see the Hampshire Chronicle reporting of this story here >
Speaking after the Judicial Review judgement was handed down, Winchester MP Steve Brine said; "It's clear something has gone badly wrong and it's important a credible independent inquiry - one that is removed from both officers and councillors - around decision making at Winchester City Council in respect of Silver Hill gets to the bottom of that and does so without delay.
"In my opinion the City Council should accept this decision and not spend another penny of my constituents money in attempting to appeal it through the courts.
"At the same time, this has to be a huge opportunity for the council to regenerate what is a fast deteriorating part of town in a way that, this time, takes many more of my constituents with them. That still has to be deliverable and affordable, because not everyone in Winchester can afford a massive increase in their council tax bill, but I would urge all sides to put the personalities and the political games to one side and grab that opportunity with both hands."
Following the High Court judgement, February 2015 saw the Leader and Deputy Leader of Winchester City Council step-down from their positions as well as the current Cabinet. A new Leader (Cllr Frank Pearson) was elected at a Full Council meeting on Thursday 19 February.
At the start of March 2015, the City of Winchester Trust included a useful summary of its view on Silver Hill in its' Trust News publication. Chairman Keith Leaman set out why the Trust did not object to the revised scheme that came before councillors in late 2014. You can read the article in full here.
In March 2015, Winchester City Council announced it would not challenge the High Court decision which was welcomed by Steve Brine as per his earlier statement. However, developer TIAA Henderson Real Estate said it would take the case back to court and appeal Mrs Justice Lang's earlier decision; "After careful consideration, and having taken appropriate legal advice, TIAA Henderson Real Estate has decided to instruct its lawyers to seek leave to appeal the judicial review decision."
On 12 March 2015, Winchester City Council's new leader responded to calls for that independent inquiry and appointed Housing expert Claer Lloyd-Jones to investigate. She is expected to report in the Summer of 2015. Her brief was subsequently announced in late March.
In early April 2015, Winchester City councillors united in resolution that no changes will be made to the deal with developer TIAA Henderson Real Estate until the independent review on decision-making by Claer Lloyd-Jones has reported. Steve Brine said this was "common sense" and praised Winchester councillors of all parties for "working together at last and recognising it would utterly wrong, not to mention make a mockery of the independent inquiry being carried out, to let it be overtaken by events."
In mid-April 2015, Steve Brine spoke to The Hampshire Chronicle as part of a wide-ranging interview for its preview coverage of the May 2015 General Election. We have not linked to their story because we prefer to print what Steve actually thinks - unspun - about the scheme, renewed legal proceedings and affordable housing;
"Silver Hill has been subject to a lively an ongoing debate within Winchester for the best part of 20 years and still not one stone has been laid. The events of recent months are a mess but it's no point blaming Cllr Kim Gottlieb. He put together a well funded and well organised campaign, Winchester Deserves Better, and challenged Winchester councillors (of all parties and none) to really think before proceeding with such a massive redvelopment project.
"The result of Cllr Gottlieb's Judicial Review has been well covered and we now need to find out what went so badly run at our council and who is responsible. We have to get to the truth and everyone should step back and breathe while Claer Lloyd-Jones conducts the independent inquiry she has been appointed to lead.
"We also now face renewed legal proceedings following TIAA Henderson Real Estate's decision to challenge Mrs Justice Lang's judgement of January 2015. Live legal proceedings mean we should all tread carefully in my opinion."
Speaking about the lack of affordable housing provision within the December 2014 consented scheme, Steve Brine added; "The fact an affordable housing element was in the original scheme (it actually required some 35%) and omitted from the 2014 consented scheme was obviously a key part of Cllr Gottlieb's Judicial Review which argued the change should have forced the contract back out to tender on the open market under EU law. The legal position of this aspect of Cll Gottlieb's case has been ruled upon by The Hon Mrs Justice Lang and is a matter for public record.
"On the issue itself, I ask the question; if Silver Hill is a seven-storey urban monster why are we insisting it's packed with affordable housing? If people want to pay half-a-million pound for a penthouse suite in such a building, that's for the market to decide and good for them but many would hate to live there, including me.
"If we are going back to the drawing board with Silver Hill, maybe this is an opportunity to have a fresh debate as to whether we want to house people in this beautiful city as effectively cladding for a multi-storey car park in flats so small you can't swing a cat.
"I believe we should think a little more creatively on this (and many) aspects of Silver Hill and that any future developer should honour the agreement to make provision of appropriate social housing or the equivalent payment to the Community Infrastructure Levy known as 'CiL'. I agree with the City of Winchester Trust who say very clearly, if this affordable housing provision is not physically in the Silver Hill build, there needs to be an alternative arrangement made within walking distance of the city centre.
"Winchester City Council has a fantastic record of providing affordable housing through its New Homes Programme and I've opened some of it during my time as the local MP, at Barron Close in Micheldever and The Dell in Kings Worthy as well as Erskine Road in Lower Stanmore where they've created first-rate new developments as part of sustainable communities. It's absolutely right, and the city council now has the opportunity to think again thanks to this hiatus, to consider really carefully where we want to spend precious resources to provide decent new affordable homes."
In April 2015, the Court of Appeal ruled that TIAA Henderson Real Estate would be refused leave to appeal Mrs Justice Lang's High Court decision of early 2015. Rt Hon Lord Justice Sullivan ruled that none of Henderson's three grounds for appeal "have a real prospect of success". You can read Justice Sullivan's judgement in full here.
Steve Brine continues to maintain a balanced position on the Silver Hill redevelopment and has either met or communicated regularly with TIAA Henderson Real Estate, WCC officers and leaders, Cllr Gottlieb as well as architects Allies and Morrison since becoming the MP for Winchester in May 2010. He accepts there is an argument that the scheme deserves a complete overhaul, after having been tendered on the open market as it undoubtedly should have been right at the outset.
Early 2015 saw requests from the Winchester Deserves Better group and a section of Winchester residents to have the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 'call-in' the PDCC decision of 11 December 2014. This would mean a Government Minister will ask an appointed Government Inspector to re-examine the decision of Winchester councillors on the planning committee and, potentially, quash that decision so there is no longer a consented scheme for Silver Hill.
DCLG already had what's called an Article 25 Direction from Winchester City Council (issued on 15 December 2014), which is normal practive in large applications such as this, asking the Secretary of State to look at the planning permission for the Silver Hill scheme.
As the MP for the area, Steve Brine formally requested that the Minister look at this call-in request; without this move, the assessment would be made by officials at DCLG only. A decision was expected after the General Election (on 7 May 2015) as to whether the Secretary of State has formally called in the application however, that may no longer be needed given Winchester's decision of 11 December 2014 was to approve the variation application which was subsequently declared unlawful in the High Court.
In July 2015 the Minister declined to call-in the application for Silver Hill, stating it is Winchester City Council to determine this application. You can view the Ministers' letter to Steve Brine and his letter to WCC dated 17 July 2015.
Also in July 2015 (and June 2015), Winchester City Council met (further to the court judgement) to consider TIAA Henderson Real Estate's request to revert to the 2009 consented scheme including a bus station and a quantity of affordable homes. As reported locally, that is highly controversial given both parties maintained it was unviable at both the CPO Public Inquiry of 2012 and in 2014 when putting in their variation application.
However, a meeting of Full Council at Winchester Guildhall agreed to proceed; a series of votes were unanimously backed by city councillors of both main parties in the city.
Conservative Councillor Kim Gottlieb has threatened further legal action following this vote although it is not clear what form that will take given the overwhelming support from elected councillors and the Minister's decision that it is for WCC to determine this application.
Winchester City Council received Claer Lloyd-Jones' independent review into its' handling of the Silver Hill project in February 2016 - you can download the full report here. WCC's Full Council subsequently voted unanimously to terminate the contract with TH Real Estate.
In late February 2016 it emerged, following the council's decision to terminate, that THRE may apply for judicial review against WCC and it's reported that the battle could reach the Supreme Court of England and Wales.
However, come the end of March 2016, THRE announced it would no longer pursue the case through the courts.
Pictured; an artists impression of the development from Allies & Morrison (top), the Silver Hill site from above, the Winchester March from December 2014, City of Winchester Trust logo and Steve Brine.
More information ...
Do you have a local issue you would like to campaign on alongside Steve Brine? Get in touch today - see here.