PLANS to move 18 officers out of Fleet could sound the death knell for the town's police station, a senior councillor warns.

Police chiefs want to relocate the officers and Fleet's BMW area car to Yateley to provide an "immediate response capability across the whole of the Hart area".

They believe it will provide greater public reassurance and reduce the fear of crime.

But Hart Council cabinet member Cllr Sean Holden fears the move will do exactly the opposite.

"This sounds exactly like the prelude to closing Fleet police station and a down-grading of the police strength available to the people of Fleet," he warned.

"It's completely unacceptable to remove Fleet's patrol car and 18 officers.

"Fleet is where the people want the officers to be — not five miles down the road in Yateley.

"Being told 18 officers and a patrol car is being moved from Fleet is not going to reassure the people of Fleet that they will be safer whatsoever.

"People who live in Fleet want police in Fleet — it's as simple as that.

"The trouble is Fleet police station is on a valuable piece of real estate which is now worth a great deal of money and that maybe is something that is driving their ambition.

"The whole move looks as though it will increase public concern and the fear of crime rather than reduce it."

Hart councillors learnt of the proposal in a letter from North East Hampshire Deputy Divisional Commander Neil Sherrington.

"The need for the change is driven by the fact that despite falling crime rates and increased detections, the public fear of crime is rising," states the letter.

"The public want their police officers to be accessible, visible and familiar, to provide them with the reassurance they need. Public reassurance is the intent of these changes."

The letter pointed out there would be no reduction in the number of officers deployed in the Hart District Council area. On the contrary government funding has provided five extra officers for the area from April.

The letter states there are currently two groups of officers working 24-hour shifts from Yateley and Fleet police stations, with an area car stationed at each.

The proposed change is to consolidate these two groups into one, patrolling the same areas, but with both cars based at Yateley.

A total of 18 response officers from Fleet will go to Yateley to provide immediate call-out capability across the whole of the Hart area.

Nine officers will also be released from shift work, increasing the total number of constables working community beats to 24.

At the moment beat officers are often required to cover leave, training courses and sickness in the division, which takes them away from their own beat.

The new arrangement of shift officers deployed for community work will mean beat officers are consistently available to patrol their own area.Three community beat teams would be created working from Fleet, Yateley and Hook.

Hook community beats will cover Bramshill, Crondall, Crookham Village, Dogmersfield, Hartley Wintney, Long Sutton, Odiham, Rotherwick and Winchfield.

The letter says the changes will take place in October once the additionally recruited officers have completed their training and Hook police station has been built.

But Cllr Holden said the Conservative Group was extremely concerned about the move and would be raising the matter with divisional commander Supt Joe Apps during the full Hart Council meeting last night (Thursday).

"We will make very sure that the needs of the people are met," he vowed.