PETER Symonds College has defended plans for a new arts complex after protest from hundreds of residents.

Locals say their lives have been made "intolerable" by the number of students being funnelled down residential streets on their way to and from the Winchester sixth-form.

As previously reported in The Hampshire Chronicle, they fear the emerging scheme is the first step towards wider expansion and say a new entrance would send students onto a blind corner.

College chiefs deny any safety risks and say they need to "break out" of the congested campus because existing art buildings are not fit for purpose.

Plans for the new facility, which would face away from the main site and towards Winchester railway station, are in their early stages.

Responding to a campaign letter backed by more than 150 people, chair of governors Charles Scott said: "The need at the college for a new building has arisen because some of the current accommodation has reached the end of its natural life and in order to renew within the main area of the site over the longer term, it is necessary to break out of the confined and congested existing area of buildings.

"The location for the proposed new building has been the subject of extensive discussion between the college and its professional advisors, who in turn have consulted with Winchester City Council planning department."

College bosses are set to meet later this month to discuss the issues raised.

In his response to the chair of governors, Mr Clarke-Williams added: "I do not believe that the college is a prisoner - nor that some liberation movement is necessary which involves solving some of your problems and dumping them on our doorsteps.

"As you plan for the future, we find that our lives in the present are being made intolerable."