FARNBOROUGH'S long-awaited town centre rebuild is finally under way. That was the good news this week as Linden Homes began preliminary work on the 24 flats to be built on the site of the old Post Office building in Queensmead.

Four shops are to be built on the site as well and construction work will start in September with the £2.4 million project scheduled to be completed in 12 months. The shops are mainly intended for relocating existing traders likely to be affected by later phases of the rebuild. Three of the tenants are expected to be announced shortly.

Pat Feighery, managing director of Linden Homes, said the apartments would be of a contemporary design and suited to first time buyers.

A second phase - the Mead retail scheme - is also only weeks away from a start. Moss Construction has been awarded the £1.6 million construction contract and demolition will start on August 19. That scheme is due to be completed next May with trading starting next summer.

The entire first and second floors of the 25 thousand square feet development are pre-let to JJB Sports and talks are continuing over the seven ground floor shops. Again, existing traders will be given priority.

The £50 million town centre development has been planned for four years by Key Property Invcstments, a joint venture between St Modwen Properties and Salhia Real Estate.

Simon Rutter of St Modwen said on Tuesday: "We are the first to admit that it has taken longer than expected to reach this significant stage in the evolution of the new town centre. There have been a number of hurdles it has been necessary to cross but we are now very pleased to be turning our promises into reality.

"We are not complacent and must strive to deliver on subsequent phases.

The first phase will set the tone for the improving environment."

Rushmoor's Regeneration boss, Coun. David Clifford commented: "We welcome this progress. I am sure local residents will be pleased to see construction actually taking place and they will also welcome the commitment to moving forward to the later phases."