WORK on the redevelopment of Farnborough's town centre is finally underway, says the company behind the scheme.

After four years of intensive planning and preliminary works, Key Property Investments Ltd (the joint venture between St Modwen Properties Plc and Salhia Real Estate Co) is now embarking on the first two phases of the £50million scheme.

Linden Homes is to build 24 apartments on the site of the former post office, which will also provide four shops primarily for the relocation of existing traders likely to be affected by later phases of the development.

The enabling works are already underway, with building scheduled to start in September.

The £2.4m housing project will take around 12 months to complete but marketing of the apartments will start later this year.

Three of the four shops are already in solicitors' hands and announcements on the tenants are expected in the near future.

Pat Feighery, managing director of Linden Homes, said: "We are delighted to be developing the first phase of the town centre scheme with KPI. These apartments will be of a contemporary design and their specifications will be suited to first-time buyers."

The Mead retail scheme is also now only weeks away from starting. Moss Construction has been awarded the £1.6m contract and will begin demolition on August 19.

The scheme should be finished in May 2003 with new retailers trading by the summer.

JJB Sports has already arranged to lease the entire first and second floors of the 25,000sq ft development and discussions are ongoing for the seven ground floor units.

Again existing traders affected by these later stages will be given priority in relocations.

Simon Rutter of St Modwen said: "We are the first to admit 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 to cross but we are now very pleased to be turning our promises into reality."

He continued: "I don't believe anyone can now say that more than £4m of investment is not good news. These developments make a large leap forward for Farnborough town centre and clear the path for the even more exciting larger scheme towards the northern end of Queensmead.

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

"The first phase will set the tone for the improving environment. Linden Homes has an excellent reputation and will provide a high quality product, as will The Mead."

Cllr David Clifford, cabinet member for regeneration, said: "I am sure local residents will be pleased to see construction actually taking place and will also welcome the commitment to moving forward the later phases.

"Certainly we are looking for them to start this summer with those key sites that will really start shaping the new Farnborough town centre.

"We have been putting pressure on and there's been a team of us seeing this through and we're delighted that KPI have got to the point where they can make a public announcement."

The news will be welcomed by traders who met KPI last month to complain about delays to the scheme, saying Queensmead was being allowed to become a ghost town.

KPI is represented by Green & Partners on the shop lettings.

For details on apartments contact Linden Homes on 02380 665115.