THE idea of a congestion charge is a non-starter, according to a city business leader.

Civic chiefs have proposed the controversial charges should other measures in a new strategy fail to reduce city centre traffic. Drivers would have to pay to enter the centre of the city as happens in central London.

But Chris Turner, acting director of the Business Improvement District, said Winchester was too small and the congestion charge's positive impact was reducing in London.

He said: "Winchester is not a big enough place for the charge to make any difference. Forty thousand people is not enough and it would not work terribly well."

In general Prof Turner said he welcomed the strategy and business recognised that it needed to be flexible in its calls for more parking in the centre of the city.

He said he wanted to see more in the strategy about buses and railways that would give people an alternative to cars.

The new movement strategy is the most comprehensive look at how people get around the city for more than 20 years.

Chris Gillham, senior member of Winchester Friends of the Earth and long-time environmental campaigner, welcomed much of the strategy.

But he argued that park and ride is no real solution and it would be better to get people on to proper public transport.

And he added: "We are very alarmed at the introduction of ‘enhancing strategic road network capacity’. Increasing strategic road capacity has only one known effect and that is to generate traffic. It never solves any traffic problem, any congestion problem, any economic problem or any environmental problem, it only ever makes things worse.

"Improving Junction 9, for example, will clearly allow more traffic to access the M3 and more to leave it, so that Easton Lane becomes a traffic generator for cross-town traffic. This is very, very worrying.

"So lots of good words and a direction for progress, so at least it takes us back towards the Winchester Town Access Plan which long ago promised traffic reduction. But no sense of urgency and in particular no sense that the problem of air pollution will be addressed anytime soon. We are now nearly nine years into illegality on air pollution and the plan envisaged here seems unlikely to have any effect for at least another five years."

Win ACC's Tom Brenan, executive director, broadly welcomed the strategy supporting its call for bold solutions and the priority of reducing traffic in the city centre.

But Mr Brenan said it is particularly important to “encourage” healthier lifestyle choices for those most vulnerable – people whose health suffers because they are heavily dependent on cars, breathe in the worst air pollution, and get too little exercise.

More should be done to invest in infrastructure to support zero-carbon, clean growth, he said, and added: "We would like to see more work on how to remove barriers to walking and cycling."

Among the future ideas is a the western bypass something that has been mooted for decades but dropped as a serious idea over the last 20 years.

A public meeting is being held this Saturday, December 1 at 10.30am-Noon at St Lawrence Parish Room and Colebrook Street. All welcome. It is organised by the City of Winchester Trust and WinACC.