Town redevelopment may get off the ground

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WORK could start on a scaled down version of Bourne’s long-awaited town centre redevelopment in the summer.

South Kesteven district councillors will be asked to support a scheme including new shops and flats in Wherry’s Lane at a cabinet meeting on Monday.

Council officers who have worked on the plans are recommending Wherry’s Mill, which the council owns, be converted into four flats.

An extension on the mill would be demolished, along with the former Masonic Hall, also owned by the council. They would be replaced by two blocks of shops with flats above.

The plan also involves demolishing a garage and two houses owned by the council. They could be replaced by more shops and flats once the housing market and economy improve but some of the area would be kept as an open space.

Work could be completed by June 2012.

Coun Linda Neal (Con), who lives in Bourne and is a town councillor, is delighted the project could take a huge step forward next week.

She said: “At last something is going to happen. It is now about getting on with it.”

Coun Neal said the proposal is just a suggestion of what could be done and the council intends to challenge developers to come up with a suitable design.

She said: “We need a developer who can deliver what they put forward.”

The report to Monday’s meeting suggests the council should lead the project itself rather than hand over control to a developer.

The district council’s chief executive Beverly Agass said the aim of the redevelopment is to create something which is in keeping with the town’s characteristics.

She said: “We are still really committed to seeing the project through.”

The project would cost £4m to £5m, with £2.35m coming from the council. Coun Neal said the rest of the money would be sought through external funding.

The scheme has been scaled back significantly since a £25m redevelopment of the area between West Street, North Street and Burghley Street was first proposed in 2003. Developers had struggled to make the more ambitious plans financially viable and the recession left the council facing even more of a struggle.

In July last year it was announced that a smaller area would be redeveloped. The council has bought land in the area with grants secured from the now defunct East Midlands Development Agency.

Coun Neal said: “It has been a long time in the planning and the economic downturn came along and made us rethink the whole project.”

Mrs Agass added: “We have got to be realistic.”

If cabinet backs the proposals they will be included in the council’s 2011/12 budget plans which will be determined on March 3.