We have provided communications and media support for a large-scale public protest against “insensitive modernist developments” in Winchester. This is part of its on-going work for the Winchester Deserves Better campaign group.

Around two thousand residents took to the streets on Saturday to express their opposition to a series of proposed schemes for the Hampshire city – the former ancient capital of England and seat of King Alfred, King of the Saxons, 849-499. Closing streets and bringing Winchester to a standstill for two hours, this was the biggest public protest the city has seen for decades.

They marched with placards demanding a halt to schemes which they believe will “devastate the character of the historic city.”

The protestors then gathered outside the Guildhall where residents spoke to express their concerns and call for an inspiring new vision for the city. Musicians and street dancers were on hand to entertain the crowds.

The biggest focus for the community’s concerns is the five-acre, £165M Silver Hill retail scheme for the city centre. They regard this proposed development as a collection of “immense, monotonous, dreary blocks” which will compete in height with the cathedral and take vital trade away from the high street – dating to 70AD and believed to be the oldest in northern Europe.

We are providing advice on articulating the message plus management of media relations and social media.

We secured extensive positive coverage of the protest by news crews from ITV, BBC TV and BBC radio. The ITV broadcast can be seen here.

We also achieved exposure via several regional and local radio stations and newspapers plus the Architects Journal, Inside Housing and Building Design magazine.

Winchester City Council’s planning committee is scheduled to decide the fate of the Silver Hill scheme on 11 December. Meanwhile, lead campaigner against the scheme, Councillor Kim Gottlieb, has initiated a judicial review of the way the scheme has been procured. A High Court hearing is scheduled for January.

Councillor Gottlieb said: “The saddest thing of all about this misconceived proposal is that, because of a lack of vision and an ineffectual bureaucratic process, we’re missing out on a once-in-several-generations opportunity to create something distinctive, beautiful and inspiring that will enrich the city and ensure its future.”

“As things stand, England’s ancient capital is on the brink of being devastated.”