THE £150 million redevelopment of Station Approach has been mothballed because of coronavirus.

The city council said the economic uncertainty over the pandemic meant that work on the site, also known as Carfax, will be halted.

In a report due before the Cabinet on Wednesday May 20, the council said: "The future demand for office accommodation and new ways of working mean that it is appropriate to pause the development of these employment mixed use sites (Carfax and the Cattle Market) whilst the impact of the crisis is better understood. The economy property market, investor confidence and occupier demand may all be significantly affected."

Dr Paul Spencer, executive director of Winchester Business Improvement District, reacted to the news: "This will be disappointing for those in the business community who support the Carfax scheme and are excited about the benefits it could bring to the city centre.

"As we move towards a new normal the role of regional centres is likely to become stronger. We could see many more large businesses seeking smaller regional offices which can provide high-quality workspace in sustainable buildings and locations, in desirable towns and cities offering their workforce a good quality of life and a better standard of health and wellbeing. Grade A offices at Station Approach in Winchester are still likely to be highly sought after."

Mr Spencer and Mark Mills-Goodlet, a director of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, had been pressing the council over the future of the scheme and last week held a meeting with civic chiefs to get clarity on the situation.

The development has been beset with difficulty for several years including the rejection of a planning application for 150,000 square feet of offices and then a successful legal challenge by the City of Winchester Trust last autumn.

Earlier this month the Chronicle reported a new idea from local conservationist Judith Martin to scrap the office plans and instead build council houses on part of the site and develop the former registry office, previously the South Western Inn, as a boutique hotel.

City councillor Kim Gottlieb proposes a more low-key office scheme of initially 25,000 square feet to test the water for future such development.