City of Winchester Trust
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Chairman's Jottings - TrustNews Dec 16

The Civic Voice AGM this year was hosted by the Chester Civic Society and both John Beveridge and l attended the event. We were extraordinarily lucky with the weather, almost ‘wall to wall’ blue sky.

Our introduction to this historic city was to be shown around the defensive walls, two miles of ups and downs and then a tour of the town centre. The walls now keep out the ring road and the 20th century growth beyond the ring road. The development beyond the ring road appeared, from our viewpoint standing on the wall, to be a mixed height non-cohesive free for all! As a nation we seem incapable of building an environment in the 20/21st century that can be enjoyed. It is interesting that Chester has been struggling to promote a large area around the Northgate for mixed use of housing, shops, offices and car parking. After years of negotiation, the developers have managed to achieve a planning application. Assuming the development moves forward it will be interesting to see whether that indefinable ingredient, enjoyment and sense of place, will be achieved.

The venue used by Civic Voice was Chester Racecourse, beautifully situated below the city walls with views across to the Welsh hills. We were informed that this was the oldest racecourse in Europe opened in the 1500's. The facilities reflected a very successful enterprise and ideal for hosting a large conference. There were several historic town trusts represented at the conference and it was interesting to hear their problems, many of which seemed to reflect those of Winchester. Traffic, proposals for unsuited large new mixed-use development areas, and the difficulties of inserting hundreds of new houses which leads to the danger of swamping towns and becoming destructive of the historic assets for which they are famed. Authorities often seem to disregard and forget that most historic towns and cities are blessed with a wealth of attractive buildings in beautiful settings. These are our assets and, where applicable, should be regarded by architects and developers as an opportunity to add new buildings and spaces which we can all take pleasure in and be proud of.

This leads me on to ask: what are our expectations for Winchester? We have three major areas with development possibilities. These areas have the potential vastly to improve Winchester or to detract from it. They certainly provide a huge opportunity for improving the economy as well as improving the fabric of our city. The content is very important. For example, you could make Winchester into a major cultural centre, a shopping centre, you could have modern offices, or housing , by deciding on the makeup of these developable sites. However, before deciding on any project it seems important to have an overall strategy which must include traf?c, people movement and parking.

Keith Leaman

Cover photo and photo on page 7 are both c. 1900 from Hawkins bequest to CWT.