WINCHESTER'S new parking strategy came under from city councillors last night.

The council is drawing up a parking plan to better support the city centre.

It could see several car parks redeveloped, such as the Chesil Street open air and the Cattle Market off Worthy Lane. The council is proposing to build homes for the elderly on Chesil Street.

Cllr Robert Sanders said it was premature to adopt the strategy when 800 households were being consulted in the Chesil area.

“This is always a stalking horse to sticking a care home on the Chesil car park,” he said.

Cllr Sanders said the St Peter’s car park off Gordon Road would be a better site, being closer to the city centre and less dangerous for elderly pedestrians than narrow Chesil Street. Up to 2007, surveys showed St Peter’s was 75 per cent full, compared to 98 per cent at Chesil, he argued.

Steve Tilbury, council operations director, said of the 800-household consultation: “We want to know exactly how local people are making use of it (Chesil) out of hours, so we can understand the subtlety and the details, to make our proposals credible.”

The parking strategy has been criticised for not being green enough but also for not doing enough to help shoppers.

Cllr Sanders asked what was the purpose of the strategy: was it to be a cash cow with “rapacious traffic wardens slapping tickets on residents’ cars” or one to prevent traffic chaos?

He pointed out how the council has stopped Five Bridges Road in St Cross being an unofficial car park for 20 white vans a day. “We prevented chaos and didn't soak the local residents.”

Chief executive Simon Eden said the council does not employ “rapacious” wardens and they do not have targets. “We are not allowed to use parking as a cash cow. It is designed to manage traffic and protect the economy and the environment.” Profits go to subsidising the cheap cost of park and ride.

Councillors had lots of suggestions. Cllr Chris Pines said park and ride could be extended to include the Winnall Industrial Estate.

Cllr Sanders said 'herringbone' parking should be introduced in the middle of The Broadway. Andy Hickman, traffic manager, said there was not enough space for buses to turn round to make that viable.