CIVIC chiefs have rubberstamped a plan that will finally see one of its buildings leased after standing empty for five years.

Avalon House, Chesil Street, is the former city council planning office and has been vacant since 2007.

It will now be home to Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, after planning chiefs gave permission for a change of use for the building.

The trust will take on the entire building and it will act as a hub, although they are not yet able to say how many staff will work there. The organisation provides community health services such as district nurses and health visitors, but a spokesman said they are yet to decide exactly which services will relocate to Avalon House.

Last month Winchester’s deputy leader, Cllr Rob Humby, hailed the plans as good news for the city.

At a meeting on Thursday, councillors voted unanimously to approve the application.

But there was one objection from a member of the public, Katja Ayling, who lives on Chesil Street.

She said: “We support reusing the building and it should not be left empty, but I have concerns about its change of use.

“Members of the public using the area will be smoking and dropping cigarette ends. That’s a concern because it’s outside my house. Taxis will be pulling up and waiting for people.

“Any use of the centre for drug rehabilitation is a concern because of the type of people who will be turning up.”

Cllr Barry Lipscomb supported the application but said: “This is a conservation area and you can imagine the sort of signs the NHS would put up, so I think we have a potential problem there.”

Councillors all voted the application through, agreeing to enter discussion with the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust over signs that would be sympathetic to the surroundings.