FRUSTRATIONS over the size, nature and decision-making process of the regeneration at Station Approach threatened to boil over at a public forum – just days after the project reached a key milestone.

The £150million plans from Winchester City Council (WCC) to transform the Carfax site opposite the railway station received outline planning permission from the local authority's planning committee on Thursday September 12.

Despite support from cabinet and opposition leaders, residents remained concerned about many aspects of the scheme, which will feature 190,000 square feet of office space and a further 20,000 sq ft of retail, cafe and restaurant space.

At the forum organised by the council to discuss the Station Approach project, WCC was accused of rushing the planning application, failing to take comments on board and not ensuring there were strict enough safeguards to force developers to adhere to constraints when they bring forward more detailed plans through the reserved matters process.

Officers highlighted the alterations which had reduced the maximum number of car parking spaces to 95, all in the basement, and dropped the height of the development by two metres.

However, this failed to quash the overwhelming strength of feeling from the forum at the Guildhall on Monday.

Nicholas John, Gladstone Road resident, said: "It seems to me you have made this decision so quickly already on behalf of everyone. I don't even know why we are here to be honest because whether they are taking on board our comments on scale because two metres I am afraid doesn't even touch anything.

"Most of us in this room actually live and pay our council tax here, you guys (council officers) don't.

"This monstrosity, out of scale, monolithic building, whatever the architect says, I am sorry it doesn't fall into context. It is a mishmash of different heights. It doesn't respect the surroundings and it is going to be carbuncle if it ever gets going."

Judith Martin, of City of Winchester Trust, said: "Why are we here four days after planning consent has been given, even if it was only outline."

She went on to say"I really think you have got the cart before the horse and I would love to see this reversed."

However, there continues to be support for the regeneration from business leaders.

Mark Baulch, Hampshire Chamber of Commerce's head of policy and representation, said businesses want to come to Winchester.

"That is a really positive piece of news," said Mr Baulch. "They want to come here, they want to have people working here, they want to have staff spending money in your city. That is actually fantastic news."

He added: "There is an opportunity here to provide a really green piece of office space that will encourage businesses to come to Winchester and they start to spend time and money in the city. We are asking for the opportunity ladies and gentleman."

Ian Charie, WCC head of programme, said: "The end result will hopefully be an enhanced gateway at the station, improved public realm for people to dwell and go through, a new low carbon, best practice, exemplar of office and mixed development in the city, providing 1,000 jobs, £81million area boost and being a catalyst for future regeneration activity within the city and wider area."

The council is now in the process of drafting up criteria as they seek a purchaser for the site, who will carry forward the development in the private sector.

Officers hope to report their recommended purchaser to cabinet in March 2020, with a develop then expected to be contractually confirmed by April.

A provisional completion for the scheme is earmarked for late 2023 or early 2024.