ALDERSHOT is set to lose its best known landmark - the giant gas holder in North Lane - within the next two years.

Owner Transco has indicated in a letter that it hopes to demolish the structure, which still supplies gas to the area, by 2004.

The news will delight residents living in the shadow of the gas holder which has stood on the eastern edge of the town since 1896.

They regard it as an eyesore and have campaigned for years to have it banished from the landscape.

Their view isn't shared by Hampshire County Council which has amazingly listed the monstrosity as a "Hampshire Treasure".

But three Rushmoor Councillors who represent Belle Vue ward, where the gas holder is situated, hope this won't be an obstacle to the demolition plan.

Labour members Keith Dibble, his wife Sue, and Andy Straker have welcomed Transco's date for removing the structure.

Councillor Dibble said on Monday: "We've been working on this for the past four to five years, and it's the first time we have been given a specific date.

‘Rusty and rotten'

"I know the gas holder is a landmark, but it's also an eyesore. It's awful, especially if you live near it."

The removal of the gas holder, he added, formed part of the council's plan to brighten up the eastern gateway to the town.

Aldershot Civic Society seems certain to give the idea its blessing. "The gas holder is not the jewel in the crown that the county council seems to think it is," said Len Lamplugh, the society's planning committee chairman.

"It looks rusty, brown and rotten. We certainly haven't had any feedback from the public that they want to keep it."

At one time the society tried to brighten up the structure by suggesting that a picture of a Christmas cake should be painted on it.

But the idea was scrapped after members discovered that the paint would have smeared on the gas holder's oil-based seal.

Details of the possible demolition date are contained in a letter to Councillor Dibble from David Salisbury, Transco's asset manager.

Mr Salisbury says: "I hope that if we are able to remove the holder in the future, that the loss of this Hampshire Treasure will not cause undue concern."

A county council spokeswoman said the gas holder was on the treasure list because it was regarded as an interesting piece of Hampshire industrial archaeology.

The list, she added, had been compiled in the 1970s and '80s following submissions by members of the public. "It is not listed for its aesthetic value," she said.