THE future of Wellington Avenue as a 21st century leisure complex is looking more secure following confirmation that the Aldershot Centre for Health will be built at Hospital Hill.
The existing health centre is currently on the site and had been earmarked as an alternative to Hospital Hill, which would have thrown plans for the town’s redevelopment into disarray.
But now the Westgate development looks a step closer and Aldershot’s Centre manager Jenny Rawlings is eagerly waiting for work to start.
She said: “This (the health centre) is the domino that has fallen half way. Once this domino falls completely everything else for the regeneration of Aldershot has an opportunity, a real opportunity, to come to fruition.
“For the first time in ten years there are no empty shops in Wellington Street and there are only three empty units in Union Street, which is a magnificent achievement and something I want to build on.”
The development could see a four-star hotel, a cinema complex, and an element of residential properties as well as leisure and social outlets.
Plans put forward by developers Alfred McAlpine Special Projects and London and Lisbon Properties Ltd could see the existing area developed into a 120-room hotel, 120 homes and a 600-vehicle car park.
The High Street is also expected to undergo a transformation with the scrapping of the ABC cinema, bingo hall and Kings Centre, which could be replaced with shops and homes.
Miss Rawlings said she understood the concerns of people who value the bingo hall as an alternative to the pub scene.
She said: “Not everyone wants to go to the pub every night, but we have got two opportunities to ensure we don’t lose that facility — either the re-provision of it in the Westgate development or with the High Street development.
“It’s an element of the town which reaches all ages, and anything at all that is going to promote and bring people into Aldershot I will support and fight for.
“We’ve got a responsibility to the whole community of this town to say yes, we are providing leisure for all ages throughout the borough, and Aldershot in particular.”
If the scheme goes ahead it could coincide with an important year for the town, as 2004 will be the 150th anniversary of Aldershot becoming the home of the British Army.
It was also when it officially became a town, rather than a hamlet, and became a name in this country.
Miss Rawlings said: “It (Aldershot) grew as far as it could with the land available. Now with the land releases from the MoD under Project Connaught, the town will be able to grow again — which is good news for Aldershot at last.”