WINCHESTER civic chiefs have signed an agreement that could finally see one of its buildings leased after standing empty for five years.

Avalon House, on Chesil Street, is the former city council planning office and became something of an albatross after it was vacated in 2007.

But council bosses announced last week the signing of an agreement with Southern Health Foundation Trust that could see the new occupants moving in by the autumn.

The deal remains subject to planning permission but Winchester’s deputy leader, Cllr Rob Humby, has already hailed the development as good news for the city.

“I’m pleased to say our estates team reached an agreement with the trust and work on the building should begin in spring or early summer,” he said.

Southern Health Foundation Trust is yet to decide exactly which services will be relocating to Avalon House, but a spokesman for the trust, which provides community health services such as district nurses, said the new site would act as hub.

“We have plans to bring together some of our community health services which are currently being delivered from different sites across the city. Avalon House is a relatively modern, well connected and accessible property in the heart of the city which has the potential to provide an even better experience for people using local health services. We hope to move services into the building later this year following a refurbishment by the City Council and a period of engagement with local people and our staff,” he said.

The spokesman added that Avalon House has 59 parking spaces and the trust will also explore ways of maximising usage of park and ride.