THE future of the Aldershot Centre for Health could be decided next week when showdown talks take place.
A meeting has been arranged between centre developer Wilky Healthcare and the Blackwater Valley and Hart Primary Care Trust (PCT) following last week's public spat where the project seemed to be on the brink of collapse.
The PCT issued a statement claiming Wilky had withdrawn from the project and that it was seeking a new developer to build the long-awaited health centre.
But Wilky claims it is still committed to the project and local politicians are hoping the two parties can settle their differences.
The PCT and its advisers have asked Wilky to clarify a number of matters essential to the negotiations.
The main sticking point is that the PCT, which will let the centre from Wilky, claims the developer is charging too much rent.
PCT chief executive Debbie Glenn said: "We are putting every effort into the negotiations and we hope this will to enable us to deliver a scheme with the original developer which makes best use of public money.
Ian Webb, development consultant for Wilky Healthcare, confirmed the information requested by the PCT would be supplied, and reiterated the groups commitment to the project.
He said: "We never walked away from this project and we don't plan to.
"We have spent seven years and a million pounds on it so far, entirely at our own risk, and our commitment is as strong as ever."
As the News went to press, Cllr David Welch was expected to deliver a statement to councillors at Rushmoor Council's full meeting on Thursday evening.
He was due to tell councillors about a meeting with the PCT's chief executive and vice-chairman, which he attended with council chiefs.
He said: "At the meeting we made clear our wish to see the negotiations given one last chance and the PCT has since written to the developer confirming its willingness to meet, subject to receiving some additional key information on costings prior to the meeting.
"Should negotiations fail we have made clear the council's willingness to see — as a fall-back option — the Centre for Health provided on the Wellington Avenue (Westgate) site, as part of the proposed mixed use development."
Cllr Welch confirmed that Tuesday's cabinet meeting would look at alternatives should negotiations between the PCT and Wilky break down.
Aldershot MP Gerald Howarth said on Wednesday: "What's wanted, I believe, is a joint unit because it will serve the needs of both communities (civilian and military) and, by providing a larger centre, you will get economies of scale and a broader range of medical facilities than you would otherwise."
Mr Howarth went on to say he was very hopeful the impending meeting would be a success but raised concerns about suggestions to include the centre in the development of Wellington Avenue.
He said: "That was one of the advantages of the centre being located at Hospital Hill — it would leave a bigger area for shops.
"If you talk to people in the town, it is because there is not the range of shops here as there are in other areas, and that's the reason it is not as popular.
"Moving the health centre into Wellington Avenue would cut down the space available for better retail facilities."
The Centre for Health scheme will include the three GP surgeries based in the existing Aldershot Health Centre and an enhanced range of health care services.