COUN. Sharyn Wheale, the Cabinet Member on Hart Council with responsibility for Fleet and Church Crookham, has called on residents to back her plans for the future of Fleet town centre. The alternative is to "throw away" the £2.5 million that the county council has allocated to the scheme, she says.

Coun. Wheale' hit out at "a small group of individuals" who she said seemed determined to derail her plans, even if it meant losing the £2.5 million. She said the money would go to revitalise other towns in Hampshire if it was not used on the scheme she supports.

She said the plans took 14 months to draw up in consultation with the Fleet Town Centre Management Group; this group includes the Chamber of Commerce, Hart Access Group, Fleet and Church Crookham Civic Society, local residents' associations and many local retailers.

She said: "The plan addresses the needs of all the town's users and will greatly enhance the town centre environment. It will remove commercial and delivery lorries from the main road, which will improve the traffic flow. It will provide an additional 250 parking spaces as well as increased disabled parking and taxi rank spaces in the main shopping areas. All whilst retaining the public on-street parking during certain hours and at weekends.

"The plan should also prove popular with pedestrians who will see all of Fleet centre's pavements replaced - something that should reduce the number of accidents that occur every week."

Coun. Wheale said: "We have a plan that will really benefit Fleet. We have the money promised by the county and I am concerned that the ill-considered opposition of a handful of individuals could cost Fleet dearly.

"If the scheme is rejected we will lose the £2.5 million. As the cabinet member with special responsibility for Fleet, I am proud to give my support to this scheme. It will bring the town centre into the 21st century, without costing local residents a penny.

"The money has already been allocated and will come from developers' contributions and Government funding; it will therefore be at no cost to the local taxpayer.

"I am fed up with seeing money spent in other parts of our county and improvements being made to other Hampshire towns whilst we have to dodge lorries being unloaded and avoid tripping over broken pavements.

"Fleet looks tired, and I believe these improvements are long overdue. By backing the plans, as I do, local residents will be ensuring that £2.5 million is invested in our town, not someone else's. We must not miss out once again to another project in another town. I am asking for the people's support."