ALDERSHOT'S seven-year wait for a brand new health centre is almost over.

Plans to build the £19-million centre at Hospital Hill were given the green light by Rushmoor Council planners last week.

Certain conditions will have to be met before Wilky Property Holdings plc, the developers, can start work.

But the company is confident it has a "reasonable chance" of getting the scheme off the ground before the end of this year.

It would then hope to complete the building by the first half of 2004.

Ian Webb, Wilky's project leader, said this week: "The people of Aldershot have had to wait a long time for their new centre.

"It now looks as though the waiting is almost over. The go-ahead decision is the single most important milestone in the development process."

The three-storey centre will house up to 20 family doctors as well as dentists and a wide range of specialist primary care clinics.

There will also be an outpatients department to replace the facilities currently used in the town's former Cambridge Military Hospital.

Other facilities will include a health and fitness suite, a day nursery, a pharmacy and a coffee shop.

Council planners were told at their meeting last week: "This is an opportunity to provide a substantial modern facility that will become one of the largest of the new generation of primary health care centres in the UK".

The new building will replace the existing 1970s health centre in Wellington Avenue which has become overcrowded and outdated. News that the blueprint has been approved will be greeted with a sigh of relief by local campaigners. The health centre was proposed in 1995, but the search for a site took longer than anticipated, and then the scheme became tangled in red tape.