THE long-awaited regeneration of part of Kidderminster town centre has been thrown into doubt after council chiefs revealed they would not use powers to speed up the development.

Wyre Forest District Council will not use Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) powers it has to acquire businesses in Lower Mill Street to drive forward a planned redevelopment of the area by Weavers Wharf owners Hendersons.

The authority said bosses at Hendersons had told them they were not in a position to extend their site into Lower Mill Street due to current market conditions.

Wyre Forest Liberal Democrat councillor Fran Oborski said the news was another blow to that part of the town centre.

Hendersons received planning permission for the redevelopment of Weavers Wharf, including the demolition of the eyesore Crown House building.

Wyre Forest District Council agreed to use CPO powers to buy up properties if a deal for the purchase hadn’t been agreed between Hendersons and owners of the Lower Mill Properties by the end of September.

But council chiefs said after months of dialogue with Hendersons, they are now looking at other options to speed up the development.

Councillor John Campion, Cabinet Member for Planning and Regeneration, said: “We set the September deadline as we were not prepared to continue to allow the uncertainty that the unresolved situation was causing to the owners and tenants of Lower Mill Street.

“We are not satisfied with the pace at which Hendersons are prepared to bring forward their redevelopment proposals for this part of their project and we are reviewing our arrangements with them.

“We want to explore other opportunities to bring forward redevelopment proposals for the Bullring that will include the demolition of Crown House.

“We need to redouble our efforts to bring forward the redevelopment of the Crown House area and that’s why we’ve decided to take these steps.”

Council Leader Marcus Hart said: “I have personally met a number of the tenants of properties in Lower Mill Street over the past few months and I understand how the uncertainty of the situation has affected them.

“I am very clear that we ensure that we are supportive of all our local businesses. By reviewing the Council’s position with Hendersons we are sending out a strong message that we are serious about wanting change to happen in our timescales, not someone else’s.

“Hendersons haven’t been able to deliver our expectations so we move on to consider other alternative ways of bringing about what we want to see happen in the town.

“I would want to be clear to local residents that we are not shelving our plans, merely seeking a better way of delivering them more quickly. We will continue to support Hendersons investment in the town centre.”

But Councillor Oborski said: “I am disappointed that the Wyre Forest DC Administration has sought to bury this in the Christmas Editions of local newspapers.

“Once the September 30 deadline, which should have triggered a Compulsory Purchase Order, was passed and when no statement was made in either October or November, it was obvious that something had gone wrong in the negotiations.

“The Lower Mill St Traders have been kept in limbo by both Hendersons and the Council and, whilst I am sure that they will have been relieved to be notified, they could have been informed some weeks ago.

“Now we are likely to be left, for an indefinite period, with the architectural monstrosity which is Crown House, spoiling the western approach to the town centre and sitting as an unpleasant exclamation mark at the end of the £2 million investment in public realm improvement which has transformed Vicar Street.

“It is imperative that all political groups on Wyre Forest District Council are now actively involved in Kidderminster town centre redevelopment as it is quite clear that, on their own, the Tory administration is quite simply, not up to it.”