ONE of Aldershot's most recognisable landmarks could be consigned to history in less than three years.

The giant gas holder that has towered over the town for three-quarters of a century could be removed by the end of 2004, Transco has announced.

No final decision has been made, but the company has confirmed that discussions are well under way.

The gas holder has become synonymous with

Aldershot since it was built in 1925 and is one of the first sights that many people see of the town.

Standing 63 metres high and with a 48-metre circumference, it has even been listed as an official "Hampshire treasure".

But people in North Town who live in the holder's giant shadow have been campaigning for its removal for years.

They are fed up with the rusting eyesore, claiming: "It's past its sell-by date."

Brian and Beryl Kirwin have lived in North Lane for more than 25 years and the gas holder stands just feet away from their garden fence.

It blocks out the sunlight to their dining room and flakes of paint often fall into their back garden.

The couple say they were told the gas holder would be removed soon after they moved into the house but nothing ever happened.

Mr Kirwin, 61, hailed Transco's latest announcement as "absolutely brilliant."

He said: "It has deteriorated so much over the last few years, getting rusty and so forth.

"They have painted it three or four times since we have been here but they have to clean it beforehand and the rust falls down into our garden."

The structure was scheduled to be painted again last summer but the work was never carried out.

Mrs Kirwin, 60, said: "When you look at it you can see it is such an eyesore.

"We just don't want it. It's past its sell-by date."

The Aldershot holder stores more than 44,000 cubic metres of gas and is one of many in Britain supporting the national gas supply system.

They can sometimes be replaced by providing an equivalent volume of storage in high-pressure pipelines.

Rushmoor councillor Keith Dibble has been in regular contact with Transco about the future of the Aldershot site, along with fellow councillors Sue Dibble and Andy Straker.

In a letter to the councillors, Transco's regional asset manager David Salisbury confirmed that a review of the gas holder is being carried out.

He said: "Our current plan based on known and projected gas demand over the next five years suggests that it may be possible to remove the Aldershot holder by the end of 2004."

But he added: "I must stress that these plans are at the feasibility stage and depend on a number of complex engineering and financial considerations. Any final decision on the Aldershot holder's future would not be made until late 2003."

Coun Dibble admitted Transco had made no guarantees about the future of the gas holder, but said: "The fact that they have put a date on their agenda gives us a target to work toward and I think it would now be difficult for them not to achieve that."

He added: "With the opening up of the A331 and the eastern gateway, the gas holder doesn't really reflect the best of Aldershot. It is important that the gateway reflects a thriving town with a real community atmosphere.

"First impressions are very important and most people's first impression of Aldershot at the moment is a rusty gas holder.

"It is a landmark but let's look forward into a bright future and to achieve that some things in the past may have to go."