A SWANKY new hotel, a string of cafés and restaurants, and about 1,000 new homes are all well on their way to being built as part of a huge regeneration project on the outskirts of Worcester city centre.

Diglis is rapidly being transformed from a run-down industrial estate to a modern community that will also see the construction of a new gymnasium, community centre and urban park.

Developers Taylor Wimpey and Berkeley Homes are simultaneously changing the face of this part of the Faithful City and once the development of the docklands and Royal Worcester Porcelain sites are complete - estimated to be in about three years' time - there will be: l A new three-star/four-star hotel opposite the Commandery, Sidbury l About 1,000 new homes, a third of which will be affordable l Five cafés/restaurants by the canal and river l A gymnasium l A community centre l An urban park on the riverside l Office space There will also be improvements to lighting and pathways on both sides of the river Severn between South Quay and Diglis and New Road and Chapter Meadows as part of the successful Sustrans Connect2 project which won a public vote to build a new foot and cycle bridge linking Diglis and Lower Wick.

Worcester City Council senior planning officer Jim Pithouse, who has been heavily involved with the regeneration project at Diglis, said these were exciting times.

He said: "This means more than meets the eye at the moment. It will surprise some. It's a bit of a flagship development in many ways and I think Taylor Wimpey are seeing it as that too. It's not a standard project there is much more attached to it.

"There are some individual houses in Worcester built in this modern way but on the whole it tends to be in a traditional approach. This development is much more on the scale of grand designs and assists in pushing the boundaries. There is a lot of attention being given to the setting of the buildings and the quality of landscaping with the size of trees, quality of materials and detail of public places."

That detail can be found in plans to install a pathway made out of blue crushed glass, forming a stream' leading from the edge of Basin Road to the dock, as well as in aesthetically pleasing wooden panels alongside brickwork, and trees shipped over from Germany to line the streets.

The buildings and bridges, too, have not been forgotten.

Mr Pithouse said: "British Waterways has already won one award for its restoration work on the bridges. The work has been done to a very high standard on all the buildings."

It should be no surprise then that the Diglis Water development has also reached the finals in two categories of this year's Waterways Renaissance Awards which aim to recognise best practice in sustainable waterway regeneration and development throughout the UK.

Neil Mattinson, partner of architects LDA Design, which has been part of the scheme since 2002, said: "We're delighted to have made it into the finals. The competition has been demanding so far with a number of site visits by the judges and detailed submission information but Diglis Water has stood up to the test so far and it's an honour to get to the finals under such rigorous conditions."

Diglis Water is being considered in both the Strategy and Masterplanning, and Design and Construction categories. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Manchester on Wednesday, March 12.

Once built, all of the restaurants, cafés, and office spaces will be handed back to British Waterways, which will lease the units out.

Meanwhile, it seems people are already excited about the prospect of buying a property in Diglis, with about 100 of the 215 homes in the L-shaped block overlooking the basin already snapped up. About 30 boats are expected to fill the basin once again now that the final few pontoons are being put in place.

Existing buildings such as the old chemical factory on Basin Road next to the lock are also being transformed into homes now that work has just begun on phase three of the project, which will see hundreds more flats and homes built off Diglis Dock Road and Basin Road over the coming months.

Homes along the riverfront by Severn Way, where the urban park will be located, will be built off the ground to prevent flood damage.

Meanwhile, Berkeley Homes has been busy knocking down former Royal Worcester Porcelain buildings.

It is here that about 400 homes will be built along the stretch of canal running from Sidbury to Diglis Dock. There is also planning permission for a café and a three/four-star hotel, such as a Hilton, to be built opposite the Commandery. All of this is being planned with the intention of drawing more people to Diglis.

Mr Pithouse said: "Diglis was known by some of the residents, but for others it was an area they kind of just stumbled across.

"The combination of that section and what Berkley Homes is developing on the other side of the canal will significantly affect the uplift of the city centre and will hopefully attract a lot of people to use it. That's why the city council is putting money into upgrading the paths down by the river all the way from the bridge to that area."

Developers have also promised to pump money into the city over the coming years to help nearby schools and facilities expand and improve to cope with the extra demand.

Mr Pithouse said the whole development is being looked at on a national scale as a good example of urban regeneration. He said: "It's a big step forward for Worcester. It's a new area that's almost emerged from nowhere but it's what regeneration is all about. It's not just building on a field on the outskirts of the city, it's taking an area in the city centre and quite significantly making it attractive but around a traditional setting."