DEVELOPERS are eying the area around Winchester railway station, the town forum heard.

Unless civic chiefs draw up their own action plan soon then public benefits from any development could be lost, the councillors were told.

The land from the station to the Cattle Market is ripe for re-development said architect Paul Bulkeley.

"It has a lot going for it from a developers' point of view. It is an area of the city where there is the opportunity for change."

It is mainly owned by the city and county councils and Network Rail and is mainly car parks.

But unless an action plan is drawn up before planning applications come in then the councils run the risk of losing gains to the public realm, such as developers paying for improvements to the streetscene or transport.

Mr Bulkeley, of Snug Projects, said the area was in a bowl and so new buildings could be some seven storeys high without imposing on the historic city centre. Several business developers are interested in building large offices aimed at attracting major firms.

Mr Bulkeley was making a presentation on behalf of the civic activists, the City of Winchester Trust and WinACC, green campaigners.

Railways in southern England are set for a huge boost when the line from the Midlands through Oxford to Hampshire is electrified by 2019. That opens the prospect of an increase in passenger numbers to places like Winchester.

Cllr Victoria Mather pointed out that although considered relatively 'under-used' it was used by railway commuters.

Cllr Dominic Hiscock said: "It is niceto have a presentation that reminds us that Winchester is not just a housing estate, it's a city and as such needs to provide service to people who live outside it and want to come in to work, a business portal inviting people to come in and do business here."

The forum agreed it was important that the council start thinking about what should go into any masterplan.