CAMPAIGNERS have hit out at plans to build a multi-million-pound supermarket in an area that is already "gridlocked" at peak periods.

Protesters packed a public meeting called to discuss an application to bulldoze the old Shirley police station and replace it with a Lidl store.

Many of the speakers claimed that the proposed development would create extra traffic problems in the area.

Others attacked proposals to move an historic milestone and fell four trees on the site, including a yew said to be more than 150 years old.

Several residents demanded to know why none of the planning officers from Southampton City Council was present to hear their views.

Organised by the three Labour councillors for Millbrook Ward, the meeting at St Boniface Church Hall attracted about 80 people.

A woman living in Shirley Avenue said roads in the area were often gridlocked at peak periods, preventing people from getting out of their driveways.

She added: "The situation is going to get much, much worse with a Lidl store over the road."

Another Shirley resident told the meeting: "I don't think any increase in traffic would be acceptable to local people.

"We already have huge problems with articulated lorries in the area.

"The best thing Lidl can do is withdraw their current plans and engage with residents."

Other speakers complained that the "large and unwanted" supermarket would make the High Street even busier as well as turning Heysham Road into a rat run.

One objector claimed that road rage incidents were already occurring on a daily basis.

If the scheme goes ahead, Lidl will close its store in Janson Road, Shirley, and replace it with a larger store employing 50 staff - 15 more than the existing outlet.

James Mitchell, Lidl UK's regional head of property, defended the application.

He said: "The Janson Road store is deficient in a number of ways. It's small, has inadequate storage and very cramped staff welfare facilities.

"That's our reason for wanting to move - it's to give the residents of Shirley something better.

"The proposed new supermarket will be a brighter more spacious store with wider aisles - a building for the modern age.

"Our application represents a huge commitment to Shirley and a massive investment in the area - and it has the benefit of removing the buildings that are currently on the site."

Addressing some of the concerns raised by residents Mr Mitchell said delivery lorries would use Villiers Road to reach the store.

He added: "There is no need for - and no prospect of - lorries heading into residential areas."

Confirming that four trees on the site would be felled he added: "We knew that would be a issue for some people. I accept the yew tree has value but 15 trees will be planted elsewhere on the site."

Mr Mitchell said the milestone would be retained but moved "slightly".