A scheduled three-day public inquiry into the scheme starts at Hart Council’s Fleet headquarters today at 10am.

Barratt Southern Counties wants to redevelop the former Rose Farm Dairy between Fleet Road and Albert Street.

The Guildford-based developer applied to Hart Council for permission to build 61 apartments and four shop units last summer.

But it launched an appeal after Hart failed to determine the application in the allotted time.

Barratt wants to build 56 two-bedroom and five one-bedroom flats in a landscaped courtyard.

Sixteen would be for social housing — likely to be housing association for rental or part ownership — in two storeys over the new shops fronting Fleet Road.

The rest would be open market flats in a three-storey terraced block running in an L-shape through the centre of the site.

They would have separate kitchens, double second bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms, with either a balcony or ground floor patio area.

The plans also include 56 parking spaces at ground level, with 27 in a semi-basement car park.

A design statement drawn up for Barratt said the site was ideal for homes because it is close to the town centre shops and has good access to public transport.

It claimed that the scheme would be an attractive addition to the town centre.

The former Rose Farm Dairy buildings, which have been vacant for several years, would be demolished.

The shops that front Fleet Road would also be knocked down and replaced with new ones and flats above.

Barratt points out that the site is within easy reach of a wide range of retail, leisure, employment and community facilities, as well as having access to bus and rail services.

But Hart development control councillors came up with seven reasons for refusing the scheme when they discussed it in December.

They include the scale, design, mass, height and prominence of the flats being out of scale and character with other developments in Albert Street.

Councillors were also concerned that the three-storey scheme has no wheelchair access, as there are no lifts.

They also say there is no adequate access into the site for refuse collection vehicles.

But Fleet Town Centre Management Group is backing the scheme.

The group points out the site is earmarked for housing in Hart’s Local Plan blueprint.

Traders say the development of the site offers an ideal opportunity to regenerate and enhance that end of the town centre.

“Hart is badly in need of affordable dwellings and this site offers a unique opportunity to provide low-rise flats/town houses within a short walk of the town centre and the railway station,” states the group’s letter of support.