Revelations that part of Fleet’s Church Road car park could be sold off for housing have angered residents.

Hart District Council chief executive Geoff Bonner admitted a developer had approached the authority about the possibility of building homes on the car park.

Mr Bonner said the loss of parking spaces would be compensated for by a land exchange, which would allow new access to be built from Branksomewood Road and replacement spaces provided closer to the road.

The council boss said there were some advantages to the idea as it would provide housing on brownfield land, provide better and safer access to the car park, could provide more parking spaces closer to Fleet Road and would allow some tidying up of the area.

Business concerns

But the idea has come under fire from Fleet town councillor and former Hart District Council chairman Denis Gotel, who warned selling off the only large, ground-level public car park in Fleet was "insane".

“I suggest the residents of Fleet let the prospective district and town councillors know exactly what they think over the six weeks left before it is voting time,” he said.

“If Fleet is to survive as a shopping centre it will need more parking spaces, not less.”

Church Crookham resident Alan Franklin fears a former car workshop which now stands empty, a building known as The Old Barn, could become a tiered car park under the proposals.

“If this latest idea goes ahead, following on from the costly and useless 20mph speed limits on several town centre roads, then Fleet shops have serious problems – as if running a business, with the high rates that are paid, wasn’t already hard enough,” he warned.

“The traffic snarl-ups resulting in Branksomewood Road don’t bear thinking about, as this would be the main access point to any new ‘mini multi-storey’.”

'No firm plans'

Hart commissioned a long-term Vision for Fleet in 2009 in a bid to encourage investors and attract new business to the town.

The vision included plans to build homes on a large part of the Church Road car park but they were never taken forward.

Mr Bonner said the current situation was still evolving.

“There are no firm plans at present so no decisions have been made and there is no agreement to release any part of the car park for development,” he added.

The council boss said if the matter was to be considered further it would require the approval of the council’s cabinet.

It would also require the submission of a full planning application, which would be subject to public consultation in the normal way.

“We’re still in discussion with the developer, and it is by no means certain that a satisfactory scheme can be achieved, that a deal can be agreed, or that planning permission will be forthcoming," Mr Bonner added.

“We expect the situation to become clearer over the next few months.”