Pizza chain Prezzo wants to open a new restaurant in Fleet town centre, dividing opinion among residents.

The expanding firm has applied for an A3 food and drink use for the former Babyland store and the Vickery estate agents at 204 and 206 Fleet Road.

Some have welcomed the prospect that empty units will be filled but others have said the town does not need another pizza store.

If granted, the Prezzo would be just a few doors down from Pizza Express and El Castello.

Further along Fleet Road is the Ask Italian restaurant and Domino’s Pizza, while Al Fresco is round the corner in Reading Road South.

Among those backing the application is Fleet town councillor Steve Forster.

“Although sad to see a retail unit used for an alternative purpose, it is evident that the UK High Street retail market is changing in the light of internet shopping, which means less demand for retail units,” he said.

“Therefore, it is much better to see a change of use to restaurant, which has good demand in Fleet, and will attract customers from inside and outside the town.”

Cllr Forster said he had no concerns about parking or additional rubbish but said there should be a condition banning a take-away service and warned it would be essential that deliveries were only made at the back of the building. He also recommended restricting opening hours, possibly to 11pm.

But Fleet resident Laura Ferne was among those opposed to having a Prezzo in Fleet Road.

“We have some lovely little independent pizzerias/Italians and we really don’t need another or to jeopardise the ones we have,” she said.

“We hear all the time that people would like a decent kids clothes shop and I know that I personally would also use it frequently.

“I agree that filled units are better than empty but we have too many restaurants in Fleet and a lack of retail.

“It would be more beneficial for the town, shop owners and its residents to have more big retail chains in, rather than restaurants.”

Fleet resident Mike Olling-ton has mixed views. He said: “While Fleet should welcome units being filled to present a more welcoming high street image, I do not believe that it can sustain many more pizza/pasta style restaurants.

“The lack of variance in restaurant offerings beyond Asian and Italian food will also push potential customers into adjacent towns where there is more choice.

“The head says ‘a unit needs to be filled’, the heart says ‘wish there was some variety’.”

The Salisbury-based town planning and development consultants Allen Planning is acting as agents for Prezzo.

It said the first Prezzo restaurant opened in central London in 2000 and there are now more than 160 across the UK.

The firm added: “We submit that the use of these units as a Prezzo restaurant could add significant vitality and viability to this secondary retail location on the edge of the primary town centre.”

The Prezzo chain is controlled by the Kaye restaurant dynasty and already has restaurants in Aldershot, Farnham and Camberley.

Hart will make a decision on the application by May 14.