MAKE the most of it while you can.

The city council is preparing to close the Chesil Street open-air car park on Monday February 8.

The council is soon to build 52 ‘extra care’ homes for older people in Winchester on the site, with construction starting next month. The project is due to finish in early autumn 2017.

The £15m scheme has been funded by the city and county councils and Homes and Community Agency and a local bequest.

The city council says it is desperately needed in Winchester, as its population ages and becomes more vulnerable with the increase of long-term conditions.

Older people, who may have had to live apart in later life as their care needs change, will have the opportunity to live in modern, well-designed flats.

The homes will benefit Winchester’s elderly, vulnerable residents for many years, helping to prevent emergency hospital admissions and enable early discharge to reduce bed-blocking.

But the scheme has not been without controversy. Many Chesil Street residents have objected to the development across from their homes on a site that before it was a car park were allotments next to Southampton-Newbury railway.

Local businesses such as the East Winchester Social Club, which has since closed, and the Black Rat restaurant and Black Boy pub also said it would harm their trade.

The city council say that the nearby Chesil multi-storey car park will be able to take the vehicles.

Caroline Horrill, city council portfolio holder for housing, said: “Old age and possibly poor health will affect us all at some stage. I am really looking forward to seeing this life-changing facility starting on site, which will benefit Winchester’s growing elderly population for years to come.”

One response to the public consultation said: “Providing mixed facilities for both health and social care is an essential part of planning for the future. I'm extremely encouraged by the integrated approach that this project offers.

"The siting of the proposal is ideal; it is close enough to the centre of Winchester for access and interest, it is adjacent to the new Community Trust Hub at Avalon House for close integration of health and social support, it is convenient for relative/friend visiting.”

The closure of the Chesil Street surface car park is part of the Council’s car parking strategy and will enable the extra-care housing development to proceed.

However the Chronicle reported last month that the council is considering dropping its 25-year stance of no new car parks in the city centre.

The neighbouring Chesil multi-storey car park has capacity to cope with displaced parking from the surface car park. Special arrangements will be made for busy periods such as Christmas.

All season-ticket rights have been transferred to the multi-storey car park and residents’ on-street parking spaces will be replaced on a like-for-like basis.

The City Council will write to season-ticket holders and residents shortly with more detailed information.