THE problem of parking in a village centre should be sorted before plans are implemented to attract more tourists to the area.

That was the message from Overton parish councillors, who are concerned about proposals to try and bring those visiting the Bombay Sapphire gin site into the village.

The distillery, at Laverstoke Mill, is set to open later this year and will bring thousands of people through Overton on their way to the venue.

Overton Business Association (OBA) has proposed creating a heritage trail about the famous north Hampshire novelist Jane Austen, who went shopping in Overton when she lived in Steventon.

But Councillor Lucy Sloane Williams said: “I understand the passion, and that you want to do the Jane Austen walks, but if you don’t resolve the parking before you start promoting many more vehicles coming in, we aren’t going to be popular with the rest of the community.”

Council chairman Cllr Tom Ridler agreed, adding: “We have got to do something about the parking before we invite more people to come in.”

Overton borough councillor Ian Tilbury questioned the strength of the link between Jane Austen and the village.

He added: “I don’t see that Overton has got a connection to Jane Austen. The fact she came shopping here is a bit of a tenuous link.”

But Cllr Peter Baker, who is a member of OBA, defended the plans and pointed out that Austen visited the village on many occasions, which had been documented.

He also added that her brother was curate at St Mary’s Church and lived at Court Farm, in Overton.

Councillors discussed ways of solving the parking issues in the villager.

Suggestions included installing lighting at the long stay car park to encourage more people to park there rather than in the centre, and installing better signing, directing people to this car park.

It was also suggested that time restrictions could be used for parking in the village centre, to prevent shop workers leaving their cars there for the day and preventing customers from using the spaces.

Cllr Baker said: “We don’t want to be caught with our trousers round our ankles. We really have to get a grip on this and to look at how we can improve our car parking."

But Cllr Ridler said that in the past, when the council had tried to ease the problems with parking, villagers had been against the plans.

He added: “A lot of work had been done by people which came to nothing because of the objections from local people. Somehow we have to get the community involved in what the solutions might be.”

Villagers will be invited to give their views at the annual parish meeting.