Winchester’s urban centre – Does Winchester’s history make Winchester a success or hold back its evolution?
Against the background of a lively public debate about the future of city centres Blake Morgan commissioned the Southern Policy Centre to explore how city centres in the central south are responding to the many pressures for change, and what the future holds for our urban centres: Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole (BCP), Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester.
The research phase is now complete and the Southern Policy Centre is running a series of virtual roundtable breakfast discussions across the central south to discuss our findings with members of the business community, and the public and charity sectors. These virtual discussions will help inform our final report.
We held our first virtual roundtable breakfast last week to discuss our findings and focus on the city of Winchester. Our attendees sparked a lively debate with many of the themes from the research illuminated by their contributions.
One particularly interesting theme discussed was how the history of an urban centre is important in building a sense of place and attachment. The public have told us how much they value character and individuality and the desire to avoid ‘bland and generic’ urban centres. However, this can also act as a brake on the evolution of an urban centre as those tasked with overseeing it can feel constrained by the history of a place and want to avoid being seen to risk damaging that history.
This also starts an interesting debate regarding the aspirations of different generations in the urban centre as a delicate balancing act has to be struck between those who wish to evolve the urban centre and those who wish to retain much of the character that already exists. It also ties in with the work which One Great Win are doing to engage people in Winchester help shape the city’s future.
By happy coincidence our first virtual roundtable was held in the same week that the BBC discussed the future role of cities in its Radio4 programme Rethink. Interestingly, a number of the global themes covered in Amol Rajan’s programme were discussed during our virtual roundtable and put into a local context when looked at from Winchester’s perspective. The history and individual character of a place, being both a strength and a burden, was one such theme.
Our next virtual roundtable breakfast discussion will focus on the city of Southampton. This will be held on 18 September 2020.
Future virtual roundtable breakfast discussions will focus on Portsmouth and BCP. The final report will be formally published in early November 2020.