"NOT before time!" is the feeling among Alton people following news that maintenance work is to start on Alton's Lady Place car park this Monday (September 24)

Part of a three-site contract, to be undertaken by Rowlands Castle based Caroway Building and Civil Engineering, the cost of the project is expected to be in the region of £130k.

Priority is to be given to "long overdue" maintenance of the Lady Place site, required to prevent further deterioration of the car park and improve lighting to an acceptable standard.

Described as "essential", this is to include the repair and alteration of kerb works and crossings,variations to the flow routes of traffic through the car park, and replacement and addition of lighting provision together with remedial works to the car park surface and new markings.

The contract will also include the construction of a new car park of 15 spaces on land adjacent to Rogers Court, off Draymans Way, Alton - a project which should be welcomed by local traders who have been pushing for some time for another car park to serve the Normandy Street end of the town.

Also described as "essential maintenance", Petersfield's Central car park is to benefit from repairs and alterations to the eastern end of the site which will involve similar work to Lady Place.

The Alton Society has welcomed the news that work, originally promised for January this year, is to go ahead at Lady Place car park, and also that the new Drayman's Way car park - to be paid for out of developers contributions from the J Sainsbury site, is to at last become a reality.

"We hope that the work will be carried out to a good standard," commented Alton Society chairman Geoff Nicholas.

In expressing similar sentiments, Alton Chamber of Trade and Industry secretary David Gay said he welcomed in particular the move to minimise rat running through Lady Place.

But he had harsh criticism of East Hampshire District Council's failure to carry out the work when promised.

"At a recent Best Value Liaison meeting district officers acknowledged that they make a net profit of £97k a year from car parks in East Hampshire and that is after subsidising those car parks in Liss and Liphook which are free.

"If the income gained from resources actually charged for in Alton was ploughed back into Alton, we would be better off and have better facilities all round," he suggested.

According to East Hampshire District Council's parking and highways manager, John Elson, the three-site contract is scheduled for completion by the end of November.