WORK has finally begun on ambitious plans for Laindon Shopping Centre - almost 20 years since plans were first unveiled.

Swan Housing Association and partners have officially broken ground at the neglected shopping centre, marking the start of the £50m regeneration.

The housing association has also announced it has received more than 60 enquiries from businesses wanting to lease the new retail units.

Swan’s executive director of development and regeneration, Geoff Pearce was joined by local MP for Basildon and Billericay John Baron, as well as Basildon Council leader Andrew Baggott, mayor of Basildon David Dadds and Mark Francois, MP for Rayleigh & Wickford, as well as members of the local community to celebrate this milestone.

The event celebrates decades of failed attempts to regenerate Laindon Shopping Centre.

The new plans will see a health centre, 86 houses, 138 flats and a shopping parade brought to the area.

Geoff Pearce, Swan’s executive director of development and regeneration, said: “We have an unwavering commitment to seeing the successful regeneration of the centre.

“We’ve taken the time to widely consult the local residents and stakeholders and this has meant that we are confident that Laindon Place will really deliver for the local community.

“Not only will we maintain essential local services during the regeneration work but, when complete, Laindon Place will bring a new High Street with shops, a new medical centre, a Swan office to which our staff from Billericay will relocate to, as well as fantastic new public realm and 224 new homes.”

Tony Hedley, Basildon Council’s chairman of the regeneration committee, said: “The redevelopment of Laindon Shopping Centre will create a modern and vibrant facility that will benefit the local community for years to come.”

Full demolition of the site is expected around February 2019 and there will be temporary retail space to allow key services to continue.