CITY councillors have paved the way for the controversial conversion of Winchester’s Chesil Street open-air car park into a 51- unit local authority old people’s housing scheme.

Member of the Cabinet Housing Committee approved an officers’ recommendation that a planning application for the £10m project, drawn up in conjunction with PDP Chartered Architects, be submitted, possibly as soon as September.

There has been a 25 per cent rise in the number of householders over the age of 85 in the district since 2001, prompting higher demand for “extra care” accommodation.

But nearby residents and businesses are worried about the loss of a car park which is usually full, believing the nearby multistorey facility to be an unsuitable alternative for several reasons, including safety.

They are also concerned that any new development will be a tall “monolithic, institutional block” clashing with existing buildings along the street.

City council planning officer Andrew Palmer explained how the Chesil Street multi-storey could be upgraded, with new lighting and more CCTV coverage, to improve safety.

He also said more on-street permit parking bays could be added in Wharf Hill to replace the ones lost through the development.