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2.3mBy for town 2.3mpounds pounds; Now work to start within weeks.

Byline: MIKE BLACKBURN

THE revamp of Billingham town centre is to benefit from pounds 2.35m of improvements, with work to start within weeks.

Provision of new public toilets in the West Precinct will be a priority after funding for the facelift was agreed by Stockton Council and centre owners Stockland.

The next phase of the improvements will begin later this year and will see new, high-quality paving, feature lighting, seating and other street furniture. The council expects this stage to be complete late in 2013.

It will also include creation of a dedicated market place in the Town Square.

Building facades will be improved, with brickwork cleaned and windows replaced, while new stairs and handrails will improve access to the upper levels.

Two footbridges linking the precinct with the Kingsway car park will be renovated and two disused bridges removed.

The deal is the latest stage in the council's pounds 23m regeneration programme for the town, which has already seen the Forum complex restored, John Whitehead Park renovated and the former Roundel nightclub and Forum House removed.

As part of the original agreement when Stockton Council sold its interest in the centre, it agreed to provide pounds 1.75m towards refurbishment costs.

Stockland, which has already invested in improvements, including renovating the spiral ramp, replacing windows and installing new CCTV, will make up the rest of the pounds 2.35m.

New stores B&M, Poundland and Bright House have opened in the town centre and planning permission has been secured for a 14,000sq ft foodstore and a JD Wetherspoon.

In March, the council announced plans for a state-of-the-art pounds 2.7m library and customer service centre.

The authority is currently working up plans to develop the complex on the site of the former Billingham Art Gallery and council offices and, subject to consultation, expects work to begin next spring.

Councillor Mike Smith, Stockton Cabinet member for regeneration and transport, said: "I am very pleased we have been able to agree a start for this work, which will help transform the town centre and I am sure the people of Billingham will welcome this news."

Pensioner Jack Rodgers, 83, who has lived in Billingham for 50 years, was happy with the plans saying a facelift was "badly needed". He added: "With a few bob spent on it people might come back in instead of going to Stockton."

But another shopper said: "It's piecemeal - we need an entire new centre like Thornaby."

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TRANSFORM CENTRE: Cllr Mike Smith, above, and the West Precinct area where some work will be undertaken
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jun 2, 2012
Words:431
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