PLANS have been unveiled for a new care centre in Eastleigh.

The former John Darling Mall respite centre in Selborne Drive could be bulldozed to make way for 18 one-bedroom flats, two communal areas and parking spaces.

The new facilities would provide accommodation for Hampshire residents who require up to 24-hour care.

It comes after the centre was shut in 2016 when Hampshire County Council said it needed major improvements costing about £5 million.

As previously reported, it included six warden-controlled flats and a hostel where users could stay if their carers were away or simply needed a break from looking after them.

Now the authority has unveiled new plans for the site.

Each of the one-bedroom flats will provide accommodation for an adult aged between 19 and 65 with various learning disabilities.

A Hampshire County Council spokesperson said: “The county council is proposing to redevelop the former John Darling Mall site, which formerly provided short-term respite support for adults with disabilities.

“All of the previous clients were found alternative support that met their needs.

“The plans for John Darling Mall form part of an investment by Hampshire County Council of up to £35 million to build fit-for-purpose accommodation for people with disabilities across the county – many of whom tell us they want to live as independently as possible, rather than in traditional residential care.

“The type of accommodation we wish to see built will achieve this, but with the added assurance of care and support available on site 24/7.”

The authority said that a refurbishment option was identified, but it came at an uneconomic cost.

Planners also said that replacing the existing single-storey structure with a two-storey building also made for a more efficient use of the site, leaving part of it available for another county council project or for the development of a small, private residential scheme.

Subject to planning consent, work to develop the new scheme is expected to begin in summer 2018, with completion in spring 2019.

It comes after Southampton City Council closed the Kentish Road respite centre in Shirley to save £300,000 a year.

But after campaigners threatened to take legal action, the Echo reported in February that talks were under way to potentially reopen the centre at weekends.

It would only be a temporary measure while civic chiefs looked for a permanent solution for the service.

This could include the centre being run by a charity or care provider.