THE new leader of Basildon Council says he will make regenerating Wickford and Laindon top priority.

Phil Turner is committed to ploughing money into Wickford High Street and the dilapidated Laindon Centre.

He has given the go-ahead for contractors to revamp shopfronts in Wickford High Street to attract more visitors. Independant businesses will be given grants to upgrade facades so they can compete with out-of-town shopping centres.

The work, focusing on the heart of the town and Halls Corner, is expected to take 14 weeks.

Mr Turner also revealed he is in talks with BDO, administrators of the Laindon Centre, and hopes to see an application submitted shortly to regenerate the Sixties’ complex.

He has not ruled out using a compulsory purchase order to push the scheme forward, and is also considering including a patch of councilowned land in any future designs.

Mr Turner said: "Pitsea is on the way and it looks fabulous and Basildon town centre needs work, but Laindon and Wickford are the two biggest priorities in terms of regeneration.

Wickford has a great shopping area and so much potential.

“The problem with the Laindon Centre is the sheer amount of money it needs, so the administration is having to work out howmuch of a loss it can afford to make.

“I’ve got a community that has been waiting for something to change for years and that is what we are going to try to do.’’ David Harrison, Ukip councillor for Wickford Park, said: “Wickford needs more than tidying up a few shopfronts, but we will have to see what they look like. I welcome the fact Wickford is a priority. It has been for us for a long time.’’