DISPUTED plans to expand a car park in Worcester's Cripplegate Park could be dropped, with private spaces nearby bought instead.

The city council has put its proposals for creating an extra 76 spaces in Cripplegate on hold until it looks into using existing parking.

About 50 objections to the enlargement have been lodged. Additionally, a petition against the scheme, organised by voluntary group, the Friends of Cripplegate Park, which helps maintain the land, contains an estimated 500 names.

But Coun Francis Lankester, responsible for riverside regeneration, denied that the measures were sparked by the fierce public opposition.

"I should stress that discussions involving private landowners and their agents have been underway for some time, so while some campaigners may view it as a reversal in the face of opposition, no way is it a climb down," he said.

"It is evidence that we are listening to every side of the argument and are prepared to examine every possible alternative.

"Every avenue will be explored to reach a conclusion that is satisfactory to all concerned."

Councillors declined to reveal with whom the authority is negotiating but it is likely that the car park at Homebase, PC World and McDonald's, off Tybridge Street, as well as Worcestershire Cricket Club's New Road ground, will be looked at.

Deputy council leader Coun Simon Geraghty said he did not know when a conclusion would be reached.

"This is at an early stage, so it will take a while. We've got to get to the bottom of how many spaces would be available, what the terms would be, and if it represents value for money," he explained.

He added that some building work would still take place at Cripplegate to improve security, even if the car park was not expanded.

The Friends of Cripplegate Park was unavailable for comment as the Evening News went to print.