PLANS to regenerate Wickford town centre have moved a step closer to fruition.

Councillors are confident they will have found a developer for the £125million town centre masterplan project by June.

This would mean public consultations could then start and detailed plans for the scheme be drawn up.

The ambitious scheme will include a new swimming pool and fitness centre, a community centre, healthcare complex and library, plus 650 new homes.

Councillors have now agreed to the next stage of the process – inviting the only developer bidding for the project, Community Solutions for Regeneration, to submit a final tender.

Only after a tender is approved, can a development partner can be chosen.

Stephen Horgan, councillor responsible for regeneration, said: “We have the opportunity to improve Wickford town centre and to provide much-needed public infrastructure.

“Health services in particular are under strain in Wickford and the new health centre will meet a pressing need for the people of the town.

“We see this project as vital for the future prosperity of Wickford, and transformational for the town.

“It is a testament to the vitality of Wickford and the strength of this project it is still moving forward despite the recession.”

Deputy council leader Tony Ball, a Wickford Tory councillor, added: “The Wickford masterplan has enabled us to take an overview of the town centre. It has attracted the investment interest Wickford needs.

“I am delighted we are coming towards the end of a lengthy procurement process and I am looking forward to a conversation with the people of Wickford about detailed plans for the complete rejuvenation of the town centre.”