THE Winchester public must be involved at the early stages of a potentially massive redevelopment of the railway station area, the town forum heard last night.

City councillors were discussing a consultant's report which said it was feasible to revamp the area from Gladstone Street to Andover Road.

The town forum agreed to hold a meeting in January for stakeholders such as the landowners and the public to discuss general principles for the scheme.

Cllr Janet Berry said: "Anybody who lives there and travels through there is a stakeholder. It is not just big organisations there. People often come up with fantastic ideas if they are given an opportunity. They can improve designs because they know an area so well. We are lucky in Winchester that we have a community that wants to be involved."

Cllr Martin Tod said it was important to reassure the public living on Andover Road that their homes were not in jeopardy of demolition.

He said the Conservative-controlled administration had "form" on the issue referring to the recent example of people living in Stanmore who discovered their homes were earmarked for demolition in a council scheme.

"It would be good practice to reassure people," he said.

Michael Carden, of the City of Winchester Trust, said any strategy "will need a strong design vision to ensure that the scheme not only provides a fitting gateway to Winchester but also secures the support of the community who have been so vocal in their opinions of quality."

Architect David Ashe told the forum: "Very few people want to support the status quo. Doing a public consultation on the back of a generakl view that something must be done is an opportunity to bring in lots of ideas."