A PROTEST against a controversial station car park in Winchester has gone ahead despite its official launch being cancelled.

The opening ceremony was due to be attended by MP Steve Brine, but was postponed by the organisers at the last minute.

The demonstration, which included Liberal Democrat councillors, met at the Railway Inn before marching on the station with placards and whistles.

The car park has been criticised for being built without planning consent and as being dangerous for pedestrians.

A South West Trains spokesperson said: "The opening of the car park has been postponed for two reasons - firstly, Steve Brine was no longer able to attend at that time due to parliamentary business.

"Secondly we wanted to take the opportunity to review the feedback and comments received from a small number of local stakeholders on the internal layout of the walkway in the car park."

At the protest, Cllr Lucille Thompson said: "It is completely unacceptable that South West Trains have put profit before safety."

Cllr Martin Tod said: "The footpath from St Paul's Hill to the station is a complete joke. Zig-zagging from side to side - in and out of the traffic - all on a route that is heavily used by pupils at Westgate school.

“This is such a botch job that we can't endorse it. We couldn't even contemplate attending any kind of ceremony without a cast iron promise to sort this out."

Liz Hutchison added: "More than half the people who use the station get there on foot or by bicycle - but from the way that South West Trains have designed the site, you would never know it.

"It's not just the walking route that they've messed up. It's a hideous design. It's the wrong way round. Loads of local people are complaining. The whole thing is an embarrassment.”

Prior to the protest at Winchester Town Forum, campaigner Chris Higgins described the car par as, “the very worst development I can remember in this wonderful city.”

“It is an act of public vandalism damaging our much-loved city.”

Fellow campaigner Robert Hutchinson added: “This council has given walking priority status this year. South West Trains have no interest in environmental interests. It is an insult to people in Winchester. It is not a ward issue, but a town issue.”