“WE WANT those centres to be thriving, but we want to drive change because we have to drive change.”

That was the message from Cllr Martin Tod, cabinet member for service quality and transformation, as he introduced Winchester City Council’s new Parking and Access Strategy.

The strategy now focuses on park and ride and getting people to use more sustainable methods such as cycling and walking, along with public transport such as buses.

Speaking during a cabinet meeting Cllr Tod said that the strategy “represents a change from where we have been before”

He continued: “Our goal with it is we still want to get people into and using the centre of our city, our market towns and differently from how they do today. The status quo is not an option; we can’t carry on as we are and think that is acceptable given the goals that we have.”

“Having a strong focus on making sure we are not cutting the number of people that are accessing our centres, if anything we want to be improving.”

“We are going beyond the parking question as mentioned and looking to create funding to support other forms of access.”

Cllr Tod said that the authority does not want to discourage people coming to the district by cutting car parking spaces, but its focus is on the central zone as that produces the most carbon.

But the strategy sparked criticism from Winchester Friends of the Earth, with questions raised about exactly what a consultation will ask.

Rupert Pitt, of the group, said: “As it stands it is a parking strategy only. For cars it is only about the siting and pricing of parking. For active access it seems only about cycle parking, which is of very minor importance.

“It is clear that the measures within the strategy will not bring about any rapid decline in central traffic.”

And Phil Gagg, of Winchester Action on Climate Change, said that considerable work still needs to be done on the paper.

“It needs sections on district transport emissions, town centre levels of pollution, health impacts, improving street environment, the green economy, and successes elsewhere.

“Sadly, the bulk of the paper do little more than focus on the mechanics of parking management and reads like business as usual, marginally tweaked to reference the priorities of the new administration.”

Opposition Conservative councillors also aired their concerns, with Cllr Hugh Lumby stating that it was “self-indulgent and petulant”.

But Cllr Tod responded, saying: “It is a difficult balance that we need to get right.

“We have no interest in making it harder for people to access the centres.”

The strategy was approved for consultation from the end of December and will then be reported back to cabinet in March.