PLANS to partially demolish and then reopen a previously closed Winchester multi-storey car park have been approved.

The previously 250-space Friarsgate car park will return with just 31 spaces as the city council looks find more inner-city parking.

This will mean the 40-year-old structure's upper floors will be demolished, with the split-level ground and upper-ground being retained.

The basement level will also provide an additional 29 spaces, although these will not be initially available.

As reported, the car park was closed by Winchester City Council on March 30 last year after it was deemed unsafe.

It was due to have been part of the multi-million pound Silver Hill redevelopment which, but this collapsed earlier this year.

Many locals have voiced their frustration at this decision, which would have developed the "eyesore" Friarsgate area.

City councillor Ian Tait said the work will be done to improve the area.

"The issue resonates with the wider public," Cllr Tait added.

"Some residents have said it is absolutely hideous, questioning if Silver Hill was really that bad that someone could've been done to Friarsgate.

"At the (planning) meeting, Kevin Warren (head of estates) gave a reassurance that they (the council) will make the area look as tidy and appropriate as it could possibly be."

The subject of car parking in Winchester has been hotly debated by councillors, Winchester Action on Climate Change (WinACC) and business leaders.

Green campaigners say the council should be reducing parking in the city centre whilst the Winchester Business Improvement District argues that the lack of spaces is harming local retailers.

In recent months several central car parks have closed, including the Chesil Street open-air car park for a housing development; with the Upper Brook Street car park set to close for the building of the St Clements doctors’ surgery.

Residents objecting to the scheme say that reopening the car park will increase pollution in the city centre and also point out the city council should be encouraging people to use the park and ride car parks.

The scheme has had more than 15 letters of objection, and one letter in support.

One of those objectors was Hazel Ogombar, who wrote: “A new car park will obviously be a traffic attractant which will add to the already dreadful levels of air pollution and traffic congestion which plague our city.

“You will be well aware that Winchester’s air pollution is already at above legal levels and is a significant risk to public health. A new car park is the last thing that we need.”

However, there was support from Dean Upton, who wrote: “I am writing to support the council’s application to reinstate a small number of the parking spaces that we used to have in Friarsgate.

“Parking can be in short supply during peak times, in particular it’s near impossible to park during the weeks of the increasingly popular Christmas markets.”