A council leader embroiled in a controversial £165m development has stepped down, just hours after Eric Pickles waded in to put plans on hold.
Winchester City Council leader Cllr Robert Humby is the second councillor to resign over the Silver Hill development following the departure of the chair of the town hall’s overview and scrutiny committee Chris Pines.
Last week the High Court ruled Winchester had acted unlawfully and failed to follow procurement laws on the city centre regeneration, a decision which prompted the communities secretary to freeze further action on the site.
Cllr Humby said that while a majority of the decision on the Silver Hill development were taken ‘long before’ he became leader, he ‘must take responsibility’ for the court’s recent judgement.
‘Over the last week, I have reflected carefully on my position as leader of the council. I have come to the conclusion that the time has now come for me to step aside. I stand by the decisions I and the cabinet made on Silver Hill. They were taken after consulting with officers and taking external legal advice,’ Cllr Humby said.
‘I think it is also important to remember that the majority of decisions on Silver Hill were taken long before I was leader. Nevertheless, I was leader when the court decision was handed down and so must take responsibility for that judgement.
‘I have always sought to act in the best interests of the city. I believe it is now in the best interests of Winchester and the council for me to stand aside to allow a new leader to take matters forward.
‘I hope this will allow for a new spirit of co-operation, and in particular allow the council to set a budget at its meeting on Thursday. I have been proud to lead the city council and wish my successor the very best.’