DELAYS in redeveloping the 1960s Farnborough town centre have sparked a political row as voters prepare to go to the polls next Thursday.

Aldershot Tory MP Gerald Howarth and two Independent candidates have clashed over who is to blame for the four-year hold-up.

Mr Howarth sparked the row on Monday by pointing the finger at Keith Parkins and Gwilym Anthony who are contesting Knellwood Ward in the Rushmoor Council elections.

He accused them of blocking the scheme's progress by lodging objections to the closures of "small slithers of highway" which were hardly worth bothering about.

But Mr Parkins responded: "I make no apologies for objecting. I would like to ask Mr Howarth why he is speaking up for big business rather than the community."

He added that the only reason he was contesting the election was because he was fed up seeing the council ride roughshod over the man-in-the-street.

Mr Howarth made the claim after discussing the multi-million pound scheme with St Modwen Properties who are managing the project for Key Property Developments.

The company contacted him because it was becoming frustrated at the slow progress caused by objections to what it called irrelevant matters.

"It is quite clear that the company wants to make progress, but they have been inhibited by these unelected objectors," said Mr Howarth.

Their objections, he claimed, were not founded on major issues of principle. "Instead they have been coming up with trivial issues," he added.

But Mr Parkins said that, as far as he was concerned, the issues were not trivial. He was outraged at the proposed loss of open space in the town centre, and the creation of a 10ft wide alley near the old post office site.

"Everyone I've spoken to is against it," he said. "The alley will become a mugger's paradise."