BIG changes could be on the way for car parking in central Winchester, policymakers heard.

The cabinet has approved a new car parking strategy for the next five years.

It does not go into specifics by senior council officer Steve Tilbury said there could be consolidation with some car parks closing, although not necessarily with an overall reduction in spaces.

Several car parks could be developed including the Cattle Market for offices and homes and Chesil Street open air for housing for the elderly, the Cabinet was told yesterday. (WED) There will probably be fewer but in better locations, a report said. It argues that shoppers, commuters, businesses and green activists can all be kept happy.

Mr Tilbury said: “We want to provide spaces where they are needed and taking parking from where it is not needed for other uses. We are doing a huge amount of work with the hospital and the university that tends to be overlooked.”

John Beveridge, speaking for Winchester Action on Climate Change, said he had concerns: “The evidence demonstrates that Winchester has more town centre parking than it needs. There is an opportunity to explore to reduce by around 500 spaces. It should be a starting point and we are disappointed this has been ignored.”

Mr Beveridge, a former city councillor, said more should be done to encourage pedestrians as it would boost business: “Reducing traffic along St George’s Street would result in more people going from the High Street to Parchment Street to benefit the businesses there.”

He said it would be a mistake to enlarge the car park at Gladstone Street and build on the Cattle Market as it would draw more cars into the centre of the city.

Friends of the Earth claims that the new strategy will undermine the 20-year policy of trying to reduce traffic coming into the city centre.

Cllr Stephen Godfrey said over the last six or seven years there had been a reduction of around 500 spaces in the city centre. “We are moving parking for commuters out of the centre.

The recent public consultation attracted 299 responses. Most respondents said current provision meets current needs.

The number of spaces has increased in recent years because of the opening of the South Winchester park and ride; from 3,962 in May 2007 to 4,664 in May 2013.

Within two years some 400 parking spaces are due to go: the Upper Brook Street (58 spaces) for the new St Clement’s Surgery in 2014 and Friarsgate during the Silver Hill construction (351 spaces) due from 2015.

New car parks: Railway station, 110 extra with new deck off Andover Road, March 2014; 200 at Barton Farm park and ride, 2016; and 200 at Pitt Manor park and ride, 2015.