Councillors have paved the way for the ambitious redevelopment of Kirkby town centre to go ahead by approving plans for the creation of a new civic square.
Bosses at Ashfield District Council are now waiting to see whether the bid for funding from the European Regional Development Fund, which will help pay for the scheme, is successful.
The authority has applied for funding for the project of up to £420,000, which would be used to match-fund £645,000 of Section 106 developer contributions from the Lindley’s Lane development and Morrisons.
If the application is successful, it would expect the project to be developed, tendered and works completed on site within seven months.
If the bid is unsuccessful, then the project will be reassessed and the council will either look for additional funding or go for a smaller scheme.
A decision is due to be made on the funding in September.
At a meeting on Thursday, members of the council’s planning committee unanimously approved the plans for the public plaza and events space, which will be on the pedestrianised area and car park on Ellis Street.
It will also see the current market stalls relocated, art features installed and landscaping.
Councillors noted how the new square would ‘add to the vitality and viability’ of the town centre.
Coun Warren Nuttall, member for Kirkby East, said that it was the council’s ambition to redevelop all of the district’s town centres.
He said that Kirkby is leading the way with this application and is already ‘getting better’ since the arrival of Morrisons.
“We are leading and the plans, if successful, will revitalise Kirkby town centre,” he said, adding that he was hopeful the development would bring more people into the town centre on Saturday afternoons, when it is very quiet.
Kirkby Central councillor Cheryl Butler said it is ‘an exciting development for the regeneration of Kirkby’ and another step forward for the town - if they can secure the RDF funding.
The council’s masterplan for Kirkby identifies the Lowmoor Road gateway as a ‘priority development area for environmental enhancement and recognises the need to create a new ‘heart’ for the town centre’.
A new civic space would act as a focal point for community activities including events, markets and meeting space.
As well as Morrisons, Kirkby has seen other small but significant steps taken to help revitalise the tired old town centre.
These include the opening of The Regent Wetherspoon’s pub and the relocation of the Post Office onto the Precinct, which now also includes a Thornton’s chocolate shop.
Coun Nuttall, who is also the Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, said: “The council is committed to improving the vitality of our town centres and this is starting to bear fruit in Kirkby.
“Replacing the old precinct with a modern supermarket and parking has been a massive boost to the town.
“We have also seen the superb renovation of the old cinema and more recently the opening of a new post office and Thornton’s in council-owned properties.
“The proposed town square is the next ambitious step which will improve the visual appearance of the town centre and provide a pleasant environment for everyone.”