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11 February 2015, 13:00
A High Court judge has ruled Winchester City Council acted unlawfully, in accepting changes to the £165 million Silver Hill proposals.
A judicial review was held into the council allowing variations by developers who want to transform a large area of the city centre, after a challenge by campaigners opposing the scheme.
Judge have today (Wednesday 11 February) ruled that the city council acted unlawfully when it accepted updated changes proposed by Henderson, without consulting the public or going out to tender.
Leader of Winchester City Council, Cllr Robert Humby, said:
"The Council has today been advised that the Judge in the recent Judicial Review of procurement in respect of the Silver Hill scheme has found in favour of the challenger. This is clearly disappointing, and runs against the external legal advice the Council had received on this matter, and indeed the initial legal judgement which rejected a Judicial Review.
"The case for the regeneration of the Silver Hill area has always been strong, and has cross-Council support. With that in mind, I think the Council was quite right to proceed with the project, a decision which was backed up by clear legal advice. However, it is never easy to predict the outcome of a Judicial Review, and we must acknowledge the Judge’s ruling.
"Officers are considering with legal advisors next steps, including the possibility of an appeal. Meanwhile, it is important to note the Courts have not overturned the decision of the Planning Committee last December, so there is still a viable scheme which has democratic support and could be developed. Nor have they contradicted Deloitte’s conclusion that the approved scheme offered the Council ‘best consideration’. What is now at question is our ability to work with Henderson within the framework of the Development Agreement.
"The Court decided that the Council was wrong to proceed with the variations to the scheme now approved without first testing the market. I have therefore asked Officers to advise on whether it is possible to rectify that omission to allow us to comply with the Court’s decision.
"I have also asked officers to advise on other options open to us, including whether we should abandon the existing approved scheme and begin again. To start again will require public consultation on options, approval of a masterplan for a preferred option, procurement of development partners and, quite possibly, a further Compulsory Purchase Order being sought.
"Whatever option is chosen it will have financial consequences. When we consider the Cabinet’s budget proposals (11 February) a revised budget will be tabled to reflect our initial assessment of the immediate consequences. More detailed financial advice will need to accompany an assessment of our options.
"This is not a matter which can be rushed. However, the fact remains that this part of the City needs improvement if Winchester is to continue as a successful centre for business and visitors. I am sure all Councillors will agree that we need to think carefully about how best we can move matters forward and assess all options. I propose to ask Council to endorse Cabinet’s preferred option.
"Some will question how these circumstances arose. I propose to set in motion an independent review of decision-making on this matter. I intend to invite the Chair of The Overview & Scrutiny Committee and the Chair of Audit Committee to work with me on this, with a report to be brought to both their Committees."