WINCHESTER civic chiefs are poised to allow a developer to drop any obligation to build affordable housing as part of the Silver Hill scheme.

The city council cabinet was meeting tomorrow afternoon (WED) and was being urged by their officers to allow Henderson to avoid the requirement.

Instead the contribution to social housing will be met by co-developer, the city council. The exact amount will depend of the profitability of the development.

Negotiations between the council and Hendersons has resulted in the dropping of homes for rent in the scheme, but Henderson has been expected to make a contribution for homes to be built elsewhere.

The housing issue has been a major part of the recent campaign against the revamping of the £150 million project.

Henderson also wants to drop the requirement for a bus station and offices. Instead it will see more upmarket flats and a department store.

The Cabinet is set to allow Henderson to submit a planning application for the new scheme some five years after the first scheme got planning approval.

Opponents say this is the decisive moment when the council loses its maximum negotiating strength over the nature of the development.

Cllr Kim Gottlieb, leader of the Winchester Deserves Better campaign and himself a London property developer, said: “The affordable housing proposal has been changed four times in as many months. What the Cabinet will be discussing on Wednesday is fundamentally different from what full Council and the overview and scrutiny committee thought they would be discussing, and there is no excuse for the latest proposal not to be referred back to those committees before Cabinet make a final decision.”

The council’s acting political leader, Cllr Vicki Weston, has refused a request to postpone the meeting.

Cllr Weston, in a letter to Cllr Gottlieb, said a mechanism for Henderson to contribute to such housing was “no longer acceptable because they cannot obtain funding for the development if one is included.”

“The Council can, as a developer profiting from the scheme, assign some of that profit to affordable housing. If the scheme grows in profitability then the council’s overage will increase and the amount available for affordable housing will increase,” she added.

A planning application is expected later this year.