WORK appears to have already begun on developing Winchester’s new 62-bedroom hotel after workmen were seen at the site.

The Travelodge will launch in the High Street, above the vacant former Next unit, after the green light was given last month.

It is not yet clear when the hotel will open, but it is possible it could be ready for the city’s bustling Christmas trade, or late summer months.

The controversial approval follows criticism from a number of people and organisations, as well as Winchester City Council’s urban design officer.

Concerns were also raised about the lack of additional parking included in the scheme, but a transport statement, produced by consultants CampbellReith on behalf of applicants the London Borough of Southwark Pension Fund, said it was not needed.

They said: “This is considered appropriate due to the site’s accessibility to public transport and local facilities.

“Staff cycle storage will be provided within the service areas, while the hotel visitors’ parking will be provided along the frontage. It is recognised that the hotel guests might travel by car to stay in the city. Winchester has a number of local car parks located in and around the city centre.”

The new hotel will occupy the site next to Rick Stein’s upmarket restaurant and Debenhams, and a short walk from the cathedral and Guildhall.

The site, which has remained empty since Next left in June, would undergo extensive redevelopment.

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

Despite the specific criticisms, the idea of bringing a hotel to High Street received support.

Catherine Turness, Winchester Business Improvement District’s (BID) executive director, said: “Tourism research has suggested for some time that there has been a need for more hotel beds in Winchester and clearly the BID would encourage a facility that allows visitors to stay longer and spend more in city centre businesses.”

City councillor Fiona Mather added: “It could bring a bit of life back.”