PLANS to sell a public car park in Christchurch to Waitrose are to be reviewed after concerns were raised by the town’s mayor.

Councillor Lesley Dedman said there was “a complete lack of transparency” over the proposed deal for the Bypass facility and for how parking provision would be protected.

But the leader of BCP Council said the need to keep the supermarket chain was “imperative” to the future of the town.

The council’s cabinet will be asked to approve a deal to sell the Bypass car park next week after Waitrose threatened against renewing its lease without control of it.

The chain’s landlord, a General Motors pension fund, is now negotiating with the council in a bid to buy the facility to encourage the supermarket to stay beyond its current 2024 agreement.

“The freeholder is negotiating a surrender and regrant to secure Waitrose on site for a further 15 years,” a council report says. “Gaining control of the car park is pivotal to this agreement as Waitrose are unwilling to renew their lease and stay in Christchurch if the landlord could not gain control of the car park.”

But councillor Lesley Dedman, who represents Mudeford, Stanpit and West Highcliffe and is Christchurch mayor, said she was “very concerned” the deal would not be beneficial to the town.

“In 2017 a Christchurch town centre car park study carried out for the former borough council stated that at least 120 extra spaces would be needed to compensate for the loss of Bargates and Pitsite car parks after development of the police station site,” she said.

“Now the police station site has planning consent and is underway. But instead of replacing parking spaces, BCP Council plan to hand even more over, this time to Waitrose. This looks like asset stripping to me.”

She also criticised the lack of consultation with Christchurch councillors over the proposed sale.

Her concerns have prompted the chairman of the council’s scrutiny board, councillor Stephen Bartlett, to bring forward the issue for discussion at one of its meetings.

But the council said the sale agreement would contain a buy-back clause for the site, should it no longer be needed as a car park, and that pricing would be kept “in line” with its policy.

Councillor Drew Mellor, the leader of the council and cabinet member for transformation, said the deal would “ensure the town centre retains its diversity in shopping facilities”.

“It was imperative that we retained Waitrose in the Christchurch area so I am delighted that the negotiations of the sale will support this in the long term,” he said.

His cabinet will be asked to approve the sale when it meets on Wednesday. Its decision will then have to be ratified at a future meeting of the full council.