THE Government has given the green light to for £120m scheme to transform a derelict site in Beverley.
Redevelopment plans for the huge Flemingate site include a hotel, shops, houses, multi-storey car park and a new home for East Riding College and represent the biggest single investment in the town in the last three decades.
The 16-acre site which used to be occupied by the Museum of Army Transport and the former Clariant chemical factory has already been cleared.
Communities Secretary John Denham yesterday gave the go- ahead subject to an agreement over the precise number of affordable houses to be built.
Mr Denham said the site represented an "important opportunity" to replace a redundant site with "a mix of complementary activities that would deliver substantial benefits to the town and benefits to the sub-region".
It would also provide the opportunity to provide a new area of town "that is both well integrated into the existing context and also entirely contemporary".
East Riding Council leader Stephen Parnaby said the developers were keen to get on with the job. He said: "I am absolutely delighted the decision has finally been made – although a bit dismayed that it took that long.
"As I understand it the developers are ready to move despite the recession. They are anxious to get on with it and I am sure once contracts are sorted we will see movement."
Beverley councillor John Bird also welcomed the decision. He said: "We definitely need a new hotel and a multi-storey car park will be excellent for the town. It may well shift shopping patterns slightly, but I think it is very, very good news. We are short of larger shops because of the mediaeval pattern of the town which means all the shops are fairly small."
A key part of the plan is the 23m relocation of the Beverley campus of East Riding College, but bosses had to look for other sources of finance after hopes of millions of pounds of Government funding were dashed earlier this year. The college says Flemingate is still the ideal location.
The college's director of resources John Doris said: "The original 2011 date for opening a new college on the Flemingate site will inevitably be put back a year or two but we remain committed to delivering new vocational facilities following on from the marvellous new campus recently opened in Bridlington.
"The decision to grant outline planning permission now enables us to reconsider the details of our plans."
The developers of the scheme are Hull-based Wykeland Group, together with CP Group and Quintain.
A spokesman for the consortium said: "After over four years working with the many people in Beverley who want to see this brownfield site transformed, we are delighted to receive this positive decision from the Secretary of State.
"Demolition of the derelict buildings on the site has already taken place and we are now working on an application for detailed planning consent that will lead to the first phase of construction."
Mr Denham pointed to East Riding Council's poor record of providing affordable housing, saying there was an annual shortfall of 1,455 affordable homes in the East Riding between April 2006 and March 2011.
Only 52 had been completed in 2006-07.
Instead of the council using a condition to deal with the issue, developers will have to submit a legally binding "planning obligation" giving precise details about the affordable homes which will be built closer to the time when the residential phase of the scheme begins.