LEADERS have walked, hundreds have marched and a top judge has taken it to task.

Now a £165m city revamp is set for another legal battle as developers defend their council partners.

TIAA Henderson is set to appeal a High Court ruling that Winchester City Council unlawfully kept the controversial Silver Hill scheme from public tender.

The developer sparked outcry when it was allowed to drop a bus station and affordable flats from its project of shops and homes.

Cllr Kim Gottlieb, the campaigner who brought the judicial review as part of attempts to redesign the scheme, accused civic chiefs of a “ploy” to prevent changes.

“The fact that Henderson are now proceeding, it all indicates that it has done a deal with the council which nobody knows about,” he said.

“It seems determined to do the deal with Henderson’s come what may, and all the other talk about being open and transparent . . . is all fluff.”

A string of top councillors resigned after Mrs Justice Lang’s ruling, and Guildhall bosses have promised an independent review into key decisions.

New leader Cllr Frank Pearson said the inquiry will go ahead despite Henderson’s appeal but admitted it could limit options on site.

He said: “One thing is becoming more and more clear to me . . . scrapping everything and starting again becomes more and more difficult as we fully realise what the implications are.”

In an email to councillors Henderson said: “Like the council, we have taken independent legal advice throughout this process and only pursued the alterations to the consented scheme on the basis of that advice.

The court judgment was therefore both surprising and disappointing.

“It is important that none of us lose sight of how much support exists within Winchester for the regeneration of Silver Hill.”