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Winchester City Council acted 'unlawfully' over Silver Hill scheme, judge rules.

The plans would cost £165 million Photo: Silver Hill scheme

Winchester City Council has suffered a blow in its plans to transform Winchester city centre, after a High Court judge upheld a challenge by a city councillor.

The judgment was handed down today in the Royal Courts of Justice after a Judicial Review to decide whether the Council, in accepting the changes to the 2009 Silver Hill scheme proposed by Henderson, broke EU and UK procurement regulations.

In her comprehensive 56-page Judgment, The Hon Mrs Justice Lang DBE, concluded that the Council did indeed act unlawfully.

Campaigners are now calling for council resignations

In my judgment, the Council has committed a serious breach of the procurement regime, which is both substantive and procedural in nature.

This is the second occasion upon which it has committed such a breach in the lifetime of one contract. It would be an exceptional course to allow its unlawful decision to stand.

– The Hon Mrs Justice Lang DBE

Cllr Kim Gottlieb, who brought the claim, has spent most of his four years as a City Councillor trying to persuade the Council to take a different approach to the development of Silver Hill.

Having its actions judged as unlawful brings great shame on Winchester City Council.

The positions of those who led and guided this process are now clearly untenable.

The Council’s Leader and Chief Executive, together with the Deputy Leader and the Corporate Director (Operations), should immediately resign.

– Cllr Kim Gottlieb
The campaign has gathered momentum among Winchester residents

The Winchester Deserves Better campaign was formed by Cllr Gottlieb and his Winchester-born wife, Nicky, in June 2014 and it has rapidly gathered momentum among Winchester residents. Their concern is that the scale, nature and design of the proposal, promoted by the Council, would ruin the historic character of the city and devastate the High Street.

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.

– Winchester City Council

The Council's full statement can be read here.