WORK on a new £150m shopping centre to transform the heart of a Hampshire city could begin next year, it has been revealed.
Development company Henderson are expected to put a planning application in for the Silver Hill scheme in Winchester this autumn.
And if that is given the green light then work could start as early as next year.
It comes after the developer got the go-ahead to apply to revamp the scheme .
After a six-hour meeting the city council Cabinet unanimously agreed early yesterday to allow developer Henderson to effectively scrap the scheme approved in 2009 and put in a new application.
The move was controversial, with a last-ditch campaign by city councillor Kim Gottlieb attracting more than 150 people to the Guildhall on Thursday evening, delaying the start by 30 minutes.
The opponents fear Silver Hill will ruin Winchester, sucking life from the High Street and are against up to seven-storeys-high buildings looming over the city centre.
There were so many people that the meeting was moved to the Guildhall conference chamber.
By decision time at 1.15am there were only three members of the public left.
Henderson wanted to scrap approved plans for a bus station and offices, cut the number of flats from 307 to 184 and remove any social housing, reduce the number of public car parking spaces from 330 to 279 but provide more private parking and shops, including a department store where the bus station would have been.
Former city councillor Patrick Davies called on the council to insist provision is made for affordable housing.
He said: “I don’t believe Henderson will walk away if the council stick to 35 per cent affordable housing. But another developer would take it up. We need a mixed development in the centre of the city.”
But Martin Perry, retail director at Henderson, told the Daily Echo the scheme would have collapsed without the council agreeing to allow a new planning application. He said it was too late to alter the scheme with the development agreement set to expire in a few months.
Cllr Gottlieb called for an independent review to give a second opinion on the scheme.
But council leader Rob Humby said: “The due diligence is what we have been doing for the last 18 months. I don’t see what there is to gain to start that process again.”
Although most of the audience was against the scheme there was some support. Prof Chris Turner, director of Winchester Business Improvement District said: “It’s an interesting project.
It puts flair back into the city, new shops and exciting new spaces.”
A planning application is due to be made in the autumn.
Building work could start as soon as early 2015.
The Cabinet heard that postponing or abandoning the scheme would cost money. The Friarsgate multi-storey car park, due for demolition, is deteriorating fast and must be fully closed later this year.
Peter Wilks, planning consultant, said Silver Hill would fulfil a need for more shops and fend off pressure for out-of-town shopping centres.