A BUDGET hotel could be coming to Winchester High Street if new plans are approved.

Travelodge, after striking a deal with the landowner, is planning to develop a new 62-bedroom hotel in the heart of the city.

It would occupy the former Next unit at the bottom of the High Street, next to Rick Stein's upmarket restaurant and a short walk from the cathedral and Winchester Guildhall.

If approved, the site, which has remained empty since Next left the High Street in June, would undergo extensive redevelopment with 'dramatic' changes to the visual appearance of the site.

However, the plans would keep the ground floor of the site as retail outlets, with the hotel sitting above and access via a foyer in Market Lane.

James Tibbles, on behalf of landowner the London Borough of Southwark Pension Fund, said: "We have been approached by various hotel operators keen to have an operation in the centre of Winchester, subsequently reaching an agreement with Travelodge.

"Our application, we believe, will bring the fabric of the building more in context with its surroundings on both the High Street and Market Lane, whilst making a more positive visual contribution to the town centre."

Mr Tibbles added that with millions of visitors coming to Winchester each year, the demand for a hotel in the city is clear.

Plans have been met with initial optimism. Michael Carden, deputy chairman of The City of Winchester Trust, said: "It's a remarkable idea.

Chronicle Comment: High Street hotel plans could be good for Winchester >>>

"It need thinking about, but it sounds like a welcome addition. It would depend very much on the design."

If the project is given the go-ahead it would become the first hotel to be based in High Street in more than 80 years.

The last hotel in High Street was the George Hotel, located at the junction with Jewry Street – where Barclays bank is currently based – which was compulsorily purchased in the mid 1930s and used as offices until it was demolished in the 1950s.

The historic Black Swan Hotel, on the corner of Southgate Street, also closed in the mid 1930s. It was famously visited by Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in Sir Arthur Conan Doyles’ book The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.

The project would be designed by architects Haskoll and a decision on whether to approve the plans is expected in March.