A NEW development of deluxe offices, homes, shops and car parking could start springing up next to Winchester Station early next year.

The city council’s cabinet heard details of how land in a sweep from the Register Office to the Cattle Market car park could be transformed, creating 500 jobs and adding £1m to the local economy.

Councillors were keen to kick-start the Station Approach development, after hearing that a deal to buy land next to the Records’ Office from Hampshire County Council could be signed in as little as a month.

They gave the go-ahead for up to £100,000 to be spent doing the development’s initial architectural, archaeological, surveying and costings work, so that a more detailed document can be prepared for the cabinet.

The council has already been approached by a cluster of firms looking to take up office space in the new buildings, with one wanting to make the city its regional head office.

Council leader Keith Wood said: “There’s an urgency about this – for financial reasons. Once we buy the land we will be paying for it. If we are nowhere near developing it, the council will have to carry the cost in the interim.

Referring to the slow-moving Silver Hill project he added: “We can’t spend 15 years sorting this one out. If we can’t get on with it it will be the council’s fault.

“We need to work to make sure the entrance to the city (from the railway station) is worthy of the city – I don’t think anyone could say it is now.”

One obstacle to the scheme could be that the Cattle Market is in the middle of the main cemetery used by Romans and early Britons who once lived in Winchester.

A full archaeological survey and possible excavation work will be needed before any building work can go ahead.

St Paul’s resident Karen Barratt was anxious that the Register Office, once the well-known South Western pub, should not be knocked down to make way for the development.

“It’s a local landmark. I would hate to see it go,” she said.

“I would like to see it returned to pub use or a restaurant. Most people living in the area think as I do. Sometimes when you attend meetings like this people like me feel as though it’s a done deal, and the decision’s been made.”

The meeting heard how the council’s buildings’ team do not believe the Register Office has significant relevance in terms of its architectural merit.