WINCHESTER civic chiefs are considering the potentially controversial step of redeveloping a city car park.

The city council is reviewing the future of Chesil Street surface car park, to either develop or sell. The 81-space car park, less than five-minutes walk from the High Street, would be worth millions of pounds to a housing developer.

The review is likely to herald a long-term look at other central car parks, especially as 800 spaces are set to open this month near Bushfield.

A spokeswoman said the nearby Chesil Street multi-storey car park was rarely full and so was able to absorb the extra vehicles.

“The future of the surface car park is being looked at because of over-capacity on that site with the multi-storey next door.”

Details of the review were tucked away in the small print of a report into the estates department business plan. The issue is a political hot potato with councillors fearful of the political impact of withdrawing spaces.

News of the review was greeted with dismay at the East Winchester Social Club, in Chesil Street.

Many of its customers use the car park. Joyce Norris, stewardess for the last 17 years, said the loss of the car park would jeopardise the future of the 250-member club.

“It would affect us a lot. We totally rely on it. Most of our members drive here.We have disabled drivers who park there.

“Chesil Street multi-storey is often full and you can’t get space in there.”

Its removal would also have a big impact on the Black Boy pub and Black Rat restaurant, as neither has on-site parking. The owner, David Nicholson, was away and unavailable for comment.

Winchester Friends of the Earth welcomed the news, because it will discourage motorists driving into the city centre. Transport campaigner, Chris Gillham said: “This is a small step in the right direction.”

Mr Gillham has long called for other central car parks to be removed, especially now as the 800-plus park and ride spaces near Bushfield are due to open in mid-April.

He said Highways Agency guidance was that when park and ride opened on the edge of cities there should be a corresponding reduction in central parking.

Mr Gillham added: “The most obvious one to go is the St Peter’s car park off Hyde Abbey Road. It had housing on it before it became a school and before it was a car park. It was promised as a temporary car park in the 1980s when the central car park was cleared to make way for the Brooks Centre. That has been a long-standing scandal.”

He also said Cossack Lane, Durngate, Colebrook Street and even the Friarsgate multi-storey could be removed.

The danger, according to green campaigners, is that, without the removal of parking spaces, park and ride actually attracts more car journeys into the city, defeating its environmental purpose.

In 1983 there was a proposal for a 10,000 sq ft office block and a 139-bedroom hotel that came to nought. Before it was car park, there were allotments there.

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