HIGH street pavements in Winchester are in line to be replaced at a cost of £2m, city chiefs announced this week.

The move will delight the many residents and visitors who have endured and complained about the city's own version of crazy paving' which, in some cases, has led to people tripping on the uneven surfaces.

The leader of Hampshire County Council, Cllr Ken Thornber, has pledged to repair the section between Market Street and Middle Brook Street before the end of the current financial year.

Much of the city's main street has suffered damaged paving slabs, which have broken up into pieces, causing a trip hazard for pedestrians.

This has been exacerbated by several bouts of excavation work by utility companies. The county says that modern street cleaning methods and vehicle damage have also not helped.

Cllr Thornber said: "We take residents' concerns very seriously.

"We're exploring all options but there are many competing demands for our maintenance budget, and we need to time improvements carefully because of major work planned by Southern Water to re-lay the combined sewer running along the length of the High Street.

"The timing is not yet certain because they are having to amend their plans due to the archaeological remains in The Broadway."

He said the area between Market Street and Middle Brook Street was the top priority because buses and other heavy vehicles had caused rutting and movement of the block paving road surface.

Work would be carried out this year to restore the stretch, probably with an asphalt-style material with a coloured surface.

Cllr Thornber added: "This will be a minimal restoration, eliminating the need for constant running repairs.

"Any works undertaken between now and 2011 will be temporary, due to construction traffic anticipated for the Silver Hill development. Once completed, buses will no longer use this section of road."

The county council is working with Winchester City Council to explore the longer-term options for refurbishment of the High Street.

Normally, a surface for pedestrian areas would cost between £750,000 and £1m, but Cllr Thornber said the county wanted a higher grade paving material for the busy shopping areas - a complete renewal would cost £2m.

He said the county would make a "significant additional contribution" to lay block paving, if a partnership with the city council could be agreed.

"Our two councils will be developing options for councillors to consider and will then put our recommended scheme, and the rationale, to the people of Winchester for comment."

Cllr George Beckett, leader of Winchester City Council, said: "I am pleased that the county council has proposed the need for a high quality solution to the surface of the High Street, and of course it is clear that it cannot all be done at present, with other works outstanding.

"The city council will contribute to the extra funding required to ensure an enhanced finish in keeping with this charming, bustling shopping street at the core of historic Winchester."

But Judith Gordon, from the Shabby Winchester Group, which was set up to lobby for action to improve the city centre's appearance, offered a cautious welcome to the news.

She said: "I'm not really familiar with the details of the plans but from what I understand they're not actually dealing with the major cause of the problems in the first place.

"That is the constant heavy traffic that comes through our city.

"Whatever they do they're only talking about the High Street, which is bad, but there's plenty of other streets that are worse.

"As much as we welcome it, it's not the answer to all our problems."

She also said that tighter controls should be put on the utility companies, to make sure they restored the areas that they dug up properly.