Silver Hill Judicial Review
Posted by Andy Goddard
Posted in News
The ‘Winchester Deserves Better’ campaign has called on the leader of Winchester City Council to resign after winning a judicial review at the High Court over the Silver Hill Redevelopment.
Cllr Kim Gottlieb brought the claim, and 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”, he said. “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.”
Councillor Kim Gottlieb and his wife Nicky outside the Royal Courts of Justice
The Judge in his report stated the following:
“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 Council’s failure to follow an open, competitive, transparent and non-discriminatory procurement process for such an important contract, at any stage, casts real doubt on whether the scheme proposed by the Developer is the best scheme on the best terms available. “
The Leader of Winchester City council, Rob Humby responded with the following:
- This legal judgement is solely about the issue of procurement; it does not affect planning approval for the scheme
- The judgement is disappointing and runs against the external legal advice the Council received
- No quick decisions will be made on the way forward: councillors will consider what is best for Winchester
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.