PART of an ambitious expansion of Winchester’s main almshouse charity has been scrapped.

St John’s Winchester had planned to develop a block of land on Chesil Street which is currently a row of dilapidated Victorian terraced houses.

The charity intended to demolish the buildings and build 16 almshouses.

But progress seemed to have stalled and the scheme had been removed from the St John’s website.

Their plans have had a long convoluted history. Planning permission was given in 2005 and 2012 for a St Johns scheme but they were never put into action.

Clive Cook, director of the charity, told the Chronicle that the Chesil Street plans have now been dropped and the Chesil Street site is to be sold.

He said: “The scheme was complex and recent cost escalation prompted us to review the economics of the project. As a result we decided not to proceed with this particular site, and we are now in serious discussions to sell the site (including part of the site to the Chesil Theatre to facilitate the development of their Annexe which will benefit the wider community) but at this point nothing final has been determined.”

When asked how much the scheme had cost Mr Cook answered: “Nothing final has been determined with respect to the site, but when it is we will make an appropriate announcement.”

The decision is an opportunity for Chesil Theatre and the Winchester Dramatic Society which has long hoped to upgrade its facilities by expanding along Chesil Street.

Society trustee David Small said: “Our activities have continued to expand but until now we have not been able to enlarge our footprint in Chesil Street. Negotiations with St John’s Winchester are well advanced allowing the acquisition of land so that we will be able to improve and extend facilities all round including disabled access, facilities for children plus a small second performance space. This will enhance the viability of the Chesil Theatre as a vibrant community arts centre well into the future.”

In 2012 a redevelopment at its base, the 12th century St Peter’s church, including a new foyer, rehearsal space, workshop and bar was rejected by the city council.

St Peter’s church was last used for services in 1949. It has been used for amateur theatre since 1963.

Mr Cook said the charity’s other development on Colebrook Street next to its main block of flats was unaffected: “Our Colebrook Scheme for 15 new almshouses is proceeding at present and we have put the works out to tender. If we receive appropriate bids we hope to commence works in the spring of next year.”

He said the charity has been reviewing its operations. “In December 2019, the Charity adopted an ambitious long-term strategic plan to expand its accommodation and services (including out in the wider community). This is being reviewed in the light of the pandemic. But the Charity is resilient and will emerge stronger from this crisis. We believe we will source other sites for new accommodation that are better located for our expansion plans and the delivery of the excellent care for which we are known.”