ITCHEN Farm has been confirmed as the site for a new 850-space park-and-ride in south Winchester.

Mel Kendal, Hampshire's executive member for the environment, opted for the former M3 contractors' compound, near junction 11 of the motorway, saying the decision showed the power of public opinion.

The county council initially preferred Bushfield Farm, off Badger Farm Road, but changed its mind after a public consultation in the summer showed more support for Itchen Farm.

People argued that the site would reduce the impact of traffic on local roads. About 700 people completed questionnaires and 1,600 attended public exhibitions.

The choice is still controversial as it will mean building on green fields in the Itchen Valley and the east Hampshire area of outstanding natural beauty.

Twyford Parish Council was among those to object over fears the floodlit car park would be visible at night.

Councillor Kendal said: "We've reviewed all the consultation results, including the public's stated preference and technical findings, and have changed our view on the best site.

"This proves that it's always worth putting your views forward during the consultation stage as they really can make a difference. We do listen."

The council is now due to put in a planning application next spring. As landowner it will decide the application.

Construction will take place during 2008 and the new park-and-ride facility could be open in spring 2009.

Environmentalists argue that park-and-ride is an out-of-date solution to traffic problems as it encourages people to drive instead of taking public transport.

Cllr Kendal said: "Stop-start traffic is the primary cause of pollution within the city centre and park-and-ride has an important role to play as it cuts the number of commuter journeys at peak times.

"The extension to the Bar End facility is very popular, with the majority of spaces regularly taken, demonstrating a need for another site."

The county and city councils estimate 14,000 commuters travel by car to Winchester daily - with more than 60 per cent coming from the south.

The new park-and-ride buses in St Cross Road and Romsey Road will serve major employers, including the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, the university and Hampshire police headquarters.