ELEVEN new town centre shops could be open in Huntingdon within three years, attracting larger, high-quality retailers to the town.

ELEVEN new town centre shops could be open in Huntingdon within three years, attracting larger, high-quality retailers to the town.

In a move the town's shoppers and retailers have been awaiting for years, the owners of Chequers Court plan to submit a detailed planning application to redevelop the area.

Churchmanor Estates, which developed St Germain Walk in collaboration with Sainsbury's in 1999, will be mounting a public exhibition later this month to feed the views of the public and others into their plans.

At the heart of the scheme is the block that housed the Inland Revenue's offices which is already long past its bulldoze-by date. Churchmanor says the scheme will introduce ('approximately') 11 new shops, including a major new anchor store, adding 85,000 square feet of much-needed retail space, and encouraging larger players.

The developers have been encouraged by Huntingdonshire District Council's decision to stimulate the development with a 600-space multi-storey car park close to Sainsbury's filling station.

Churchmanor's associate director Howard White said earlier plans to expand northwards onto what is currently an access road at the back of the Inland Revenue block had been abandoned.

Instead, the new shops will be built on what is now open space used mainly by skateboarders.

The plans also include development of a focal-point communal area, to the rear of Newtons Court, with extensive seating for shoppers, and the shops could include a high-profile restaurant with outside seating areas.

"We are working towards a planning application later this year. Detailed consent could take up to a year but, with goodwill on both sides, it could happen more quickly. Then we have to demolish the existing block before a year's building work, so it could be two to three years altogether," Mr White said.

The public exhibition will take place in the former tax offices on Wednesday July 21 between 2 and 7pm.

But do not expect the re-opening of the controversial St Germain Walk gate, which will remain closed for safety reasons.

INFORMATION: The exhibition is open to all and there will be feedback forms for visitors to give their views on the initial plans for the development. People can also give their feedback on the plans at www.chequerscourt.co.uk