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Why we need a Vision for Winchester - TrustNews Sept 04

Readers will recall that the Trust published a policy discussion paper in January 2001 called The Future of Winchester, a Strategic Vision. Since then events have moved on and in particular we have been grappling with PPG3. While our original document is still relevant in that it sets out the principles that we wanted to pursue in the more urban environment that we foresaw, the Trust's Policy Group has been considering how best to direct its future activity as circumstances evolve.

Desmond Clarke of the Trust's Policy Group explains our views on the importance of having a vision for Winchester:

A vision for a city like Winchester should describe its future purpose, form and character in the light of changing economic, social, political, cultural and environmental influences. Some of these influences are outside the control of its residents; others can be shaped by local control and pressure.

Winchester was the ancient capital of England and its character over the centuries has been shaped by its role as an administrative, legal, ecclesiastical and military centre. It is often described today as an important historical city and is widely regarded as a 'nice place to live', encouraged by its unique environment and the architecture of many of its buildings, notably the cathedral, its good schools, lively high street, pleasant suburbs and incomparable setting. However, its environment has also been scarred by a few inappropriate or unattractive developments.

Winchester, like all cities and towns, is rapidly changing as many of its traditional roles diminish and improved rail and motorway links are introduced. In particular, there has been an enormous demand for new housing. As a result Winchester's unique character is increasingly under threat and there is a real danger that the City is rapidly drifting towards becoming just another dormitory town.

we cannot halt the pressures for change

While we cannot halt the pressures for change, Winchester's residents, through their elected representatives, local associations and media, can influence the evolving shape, design and character of the City. In particular, we need to ensure that major developments are truly integrated into the character, culture and life of the City, and that smaller developments enhance and reflect their local environment. To achieve this we need a vision for a future Winchester that builds on its unique character and design, and creates an exciting and attractive environment for future generations. We need to describe a future Winchester where we want to live and work and have a master plan within which developers, architects and planners can operate. Without such an over riding plan, the rapid enlargement of Winchester will be confused, unimaginative and destructive.

Cities can adopt very different visions: the 'historic' city model where development may be tightly controlled; the garden dormitory towns; the European model based on a vibrant centre; and the regenerated cities in the North. 'Good Cities' were created because their leaders had a vision and affected their development.

The Trust believes that there is a real need for a vision for the future of Winchester and there should be a genuine debate about what that vision should be for our City.