City of Winchester Trust
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Comments from the Winchester Trust

Comments on the current Design Brief for the Station Approach regeneration addressed by the City of Winchester Trust to Winchester City Council prior to the Cabinet meeting on 17.9.15.

We welcome the improvements to the earlier drafts and appreciate the consideration given to a number of our concerns expressed at Panel meetings. There are, however, very important matters that still give us grave concern, which we set out below under four headings.

1. Based on the experience of professional Trust members, we do not believe the Brief is worded in such a way as to attract expressions of interest from firms of the calibre needed to do justice to the Council’s Brief and to Winchester.

Programme - in some places this is too tight. When multi-disciplinary teams are needed it takes more time than allowed to assemble the best teams. A period of four weeks is also insufficient for teams to put together final tenders/designs, bearing in mind that teams consisting of different firms will need time to co-ordinate their expertise into a single concise submission.

Assessment – successful and therefore busy firms will be wary of devoting valuable time and resources unless confident of fair and expert assessment of their submissions. The appointment of an RIBA advisor to the Council throughout the process, and if possible the name of a respected jury chairman would overcome this problem.

2. The Brief is too restrictive to achieve the best and most innovative solutions from the urban and architectural designers it seeks to engage. It would be wiser to be less specific about areas and uses, stating Council preferences rather than precise floor area, for example. Competitors will nevertheless take note of what is likely to gain approval, but may also be encouraged to suggest alternatives, which could well be equally acceptable to the Council.

Variety - This is rather half-heartedly mentioned in the Brief. Encouragement to explore exciting possibilities would add a sense of inspiration. Reference could be made, for example, to the words in the Winchester Vision document quoting the City’s aspiration to become a regional cultural centre, rather than the somewhat begrudging reference “even to the extent of cultural community facilities”, which give the impression that culture is a bit way out for Winchester. There is little danger of an unrealistic proposal with a process that ensures viability.

3. There is a large hole in the information provided which is the lack of a comprehensive movement study. The area is above all a movement hub of great complexity, and finding the best solution to this currently very unsatisfactory and worsening problem is fundamental to the success of such a scheme. Is each team to carry out its own study? Might it not be better for the City to commission a report that combines the disparate information from various sources and adds the missing information into a single resource to be used by all?

Consultations - Presumably the Council has consulted other important landowners and it would be helpful for competitors to know the outcome of any consultations and also be given contact details that may be followed up.

4. Finally, as with any complex document put together over a period of time, which has been subject to intervention from others on different subjects and at different times, the Brief now suffers from certain inconsistencies, contradictions and in some cases is in need of clarifications for those to whom it will be a new document.

There is no doubt that a really good professional design brief is extremely important towards achieving a satisfactory outcome of any scheme. A good brief sets out the vision and direction required by a client body with the aspirations of securing a development that will be a 21st Century addition to Winchester of which we and future generations will all be proud. In our opinion the current Brief does not yet achieve such a standard.


As he is our representative but may not be known to some of you, may I commend Chris Higgins to you as the Trust’s spokesman. He has long been a member but too busy to play a fully active part in the Trust’s affairs. However, we have prevailed upon him to do so now because of his particular expertise and experience in the successful procurement of well-designed buildings that have enhanced the reputation and economy of two important organisations. As a qualified Quantity Surveyor, he is well aware of the necessity for economic rigour, and from his time as a director of Architecture plb, he is also steeped in the advantages of good design.

This experience was put to good use first by the University of Winchester where, as Director of Estates, he was responsible for the procurement of the West Downs Campus, the Student Village and the University Centre, which created a gateway to the main campus – all highly successful to the extent that the Vice Chancellor credits them with enhancement of the University’s standing. Subsequently he had a similar role with the London School of Economics where he wrote the brief, organised the procurement and design competition for a £34M Student Union Building that has received national recognition and high praise in all quarters.

I mention this because it is important that the Councillors recognise that within the Trust and the other key stakeholders, there is a range of expertise on project management, urban planning and architectural matters, which the City cannot match. We therefore hope you appreciate that we have expertise to contribute and genuinely wish to help and support the City’s aspirations.

Keith Leaman
Chairman – City of Winchester Trust