On Tuesday, Hart’s influential cabinet decided to recommend that full council backs the scheme when it next meets on March 27.
During a detailed hour-long discussion, Cllr Sharyn Wheale warned the £2.5m could be lost if the Hampshire County Council proposals for Fleet town centre were not accepted.
But Cllr Denis Gotel insisted the county council scheme will cause a headache for drivers and urged councillors to back his alternative plan.
Cllr Wheale pointed out that the current plans have taken 14 months to produce in consultation with the Fleet Town Centre Management Group, which includes members of the chamber of commerce, Hart Access Group, Fleet and Church Crookham Civic Society and local traders.
“The plan addresses the needs of all the town’s users and will greatly enhance the town centre environment,” she said.
“It will remove commercial and delivery lorries from the main road, which will improve the traffic flow. It will provide an additional 250 parking spaces as well as increased disabled parking and taxi rank spaces in the main shopping areas. All while retaining the public on street parking during certain hours and at weekends.”
Cllr Wheale said the plan should also prove popular with pedestrians, who will see all of Fleet’s town centre pavements replaced. A number of people have fallen after tripping over unsteady pavement slabs.
“As the cabinet member with special responsibility for Fleet, I am proud to give my support to this scheme. It will bring the town centre into the 21st century, without costing local residents a penny.
“I am fed up with seeing money spent in other parts of our county and improvements being made to other Hampshire towns while we have to dodge lorries being unloaded and avoid tripping over broken pavements.
“Fleet looks tired and I believe these improvements are long overdue.”
But in an impassioned plea Cllr Gotel asked: “Must we take what is on offer from Hampshire County Council under the guise of a transportation improvement or do we attempt to negotiate a better deal?
“Do we take a proposal that will turn Fleet high street into an anti-motorist corridor, and here I simply point to the Elvetham Road scheme that you all voted only last week to disband, or should we urgently give the matter of traffic congestion in Fleet the serious examination and due consideration it deserves?
“We would all be pleased to see progress, but it has to be the right progress.”
Cllr Gotel said Hart must urgently set out clearly what it wants to see happen in Fleet Road by taking the good from the two schemes and putting aside the bad or unnecessary.
It must then put together a refined solution, which meets Hart’s objectives, ask residents their views and take into account any constructive additional comments.
Hart must then have further discussions with the county council to reach an agreed settlement before proceeding.
Cllr Gotel said nearly 300 people viewed his alternative scheme and the majority opposed the county council proposal.
He also said a survey of Fleet Road traders between Birch Avenue and Upper Street carried out on Monday from 9am to 5.30pm revealed that, of the 63 shops asked, 60 wanted the current level of on-street parking retained.
“The findings are astonishing and it raises big questions,” said Cllr Gotel.
...BUT chicanes' future looks bleak
HART has officially condemned the controversial Elvetham Road chicanes.
Full council has passed a motion demanding Hampshire County Council remove them.
The motion was proposed by Fleet West Conservative councillor Richard Hunt and supported by fellow ward councillor Sean Holden and Fleet Central councillor Carol Leversha.
But Independent Fleet Central councillor Denis Gotel called for the motion to be deferred and discussed at the next full council meeting on March 27, when the results of the independent review by WS Atkins would have been presented to the Hart Highway Management Advisory Panel.
Cllr Holden said: “It is extraordinary that Cllr Gotel is now withdrawing his opposition to the scheme, as it was this issue that got him elected.”
Cllr Hunt added: “Cllr Gotel has abandoned those who elected him.”
But Cllr Gotel hit back: “I find it extraordinary that Cllr Holden was on the Hart Highway Management Advisory Panel that called for the expensive independent review and now wants to pre-empt its findings.
“In the circumstances I thought it was appropriate that I should not take a position either way, so I abstained accordingly.”
Cllr Gotel took two weeks to produce a 21-page report on the chicanes after posting 400 questionnaires to people living in and around Elvetham Road.
A total of 216 were returned completed, with the majority slamming the scheme.
Many claimed it had turned a quiet back road into a driving nightmare.
One resident warned that someone is going to get killed if the chicanes are not removed.