AN AMBITIOUS programme designed to regenerate the Rochford district is well underway.

A development partner is due to be selected in March, which will help the council revitalise six of its strategic sites, creating new community and civic buildings in Rochford and Rayleigh.

These key sites are being reviewed to ensure they are put to best use, particularly as under-used sites cost the taxpayer to secure and maintain. The resulting programme expects a reduction in future costs.

The sites within the programme are:

• Freight House, Rochford – the proposal is to refurbish and extend this heritage asset to give it a new lease of life; creating improved flexible spaces for civic and community use which can also be used for commercial hire;

• Mill Arts & Events Centre, Rayleigh - to re-develop the whole of this site to provide new community and civic spaces alongside commercial and/or residential use which will raise the profile of the neighbouring heritage assets;

• Civic Suite, Rayleigh - to re-develop the whole of this site for commercial and/or residential use; and

• Numbers 3 – 15 South Street, Rochford (current Council offices) and Numbers 19 and 57 South Street - the proposal is to re-develop for residential use.

Since September 2019 Rochford District Council has been engaged in a procurement process to find the right development partner to help deliver this programme.

The bidders (who cannot be named yet for legal reasons) are now preparing their tenders for council evaluation, with a final decision expected in March 2020.

Simon Wootton, councillor for enterprise, said: "We have reached a significant milestone in this exciting and bold programme, which seeks to maximise the opportunities for the Rochford District in terms of regeneration and economic growth.

“Many of the buildings which currently form part of the Rochford District Council estate are old, with some in a very poor condition, and consequently these are costly to maintain.

“This ambitious programme expects a reduction in running costs, as we will no longer need to pay for under-used buildings.

“As well as supporting our residents and businesses by providing modern facilities, the regeneration of key sites in both Rochford and Rayleigh will also give a boost to these town centres, which will create confidence in our high streets and encourage inward investment in the years to come."