PROPOSALS for a £4.5million art centre in Ringwood were met with widespread enthusiasm at a public meeting.

But concerns over parking and extra traffic were raised.

A group led by Ringwood & District Community Association (Greyfriars) and the Ringwood Musical & Dramatic Society (RMDS) has submitted plans for the arts centre, which would replace the dilapidated Greyfriars Activity Centre next to the library and Blynkbonnie car park.

The scheme would be independently funded and would have a 250-seat theatre and cinema that could double as a large community venue able to seat up to 200 people for social functions.

Chairman of the Greyfriars Art Centre steering committee Mike Osborne said: “From the responses we’ve had so far, Ringwood people in general seem extremely enthusiastic about the proposed arts centre and the benefits it might bring to the town.

“The vast majority seem to be saying it’s a building that is long overdue.

“However, we do recognise there are concerns regarding car parking and possible traffic that might be generated by the centre when it opens.”

Greyfriars Community Association has bought the car park alongside the Bickerley Gardens Road and proposes changes to parking outside the library next to the Greyfriars lawn.

Mr Osborne said: “We know how important car parking is in Ringwood, and we have tried very hard to ensure losses are kept to a minimum.

“Inevitably, however, in a development of this nature some compromises may have to be made. We hope that Ringwood people will feel the loss of six parking spaces is a small price to pay for the benefits the arts centre will bring to the community as a whole.”

Chairman of RMDS Julian Peckham said the project’s backers were determined to minimise the impact the proposed centre might have on people living nearby.

He said: “Because the eventual car parking provision will be roughly the same as already exists in the vicinity, we don’t envisage a huge extra volume in local traffic.

“And with better pedestrian access and more attractive walkways we anticipate that many visitors will be happy to walk to the arts centre.

“There are very few theatres or community venues in Britain where every single visitor is able to park right outside the door.

“Visitors to the new centre during busy times, most notably in the evenings, will be able to leave their cars in the Furlong car park and take a three-minute stroll to the venue – roughly equivalent to the distance visitors to The Lighthouse have to walk from any of Poole’s car parks.

“Increased footfall through the High Street and past Friday’s Cross will have the added benefit of helping to raise the profile of local shopkeepers and traders.”

Mr Osborne added: “We’d like the community to support this project – it’s something that should benefit everyone in Ringwood, young and old, now and into the future.”