A 'specialist developer' has been put in charge of a controversial plan which includes the partial demolition of a bingo hall.
Ashford Borough Council (ABC) announced this afternoon it has appointed Milligan to help build its Vicarage Lane scheme.
The firm - which was involved in the construction of the town's Designer Outlet 20 years ago - has offices in London and Barcelona and has been behind scores of regeneration projects.
Planning permission is yet to be obtained for the Ashford scheme which, if approved, will see the rear of the ex-Mecca Bingo site knocked down and Vicarage Lane car park redeveloped.
ABC bought the bingo hall - which previously housed an Odeon cinema - in 2018 and revealed its plans for the Lower High Street spot last year.
But its proposed scheme - dubbed Odeon Square - has faced fierce opposition, with campaigners calling on the authority to turn the site into a theatre rather than knocking the majority of it down.
Bosses say bulldozing the rear of the landmark 1930s building will open up views of St Mary's Church.
Despite looking to knock through the former cinema entrance, chiefs plan to retain most of the frontage, creating an indoor performance space in the ballroom on the first floor above the former foyer.
In a statement, ABC described Milligan as a "specialist developer which has a rich pedigree of developing mixed-use projects".
Cllr Paul Clokie, portfolio holder for corporate property, said it had been looking for “a stand-out performer who was passionate about using the Vicarage Lane scheme as a catalyst for town centre regeneration”.
He said: "We believe this scheme will help rejuvenate Ashford, enhance our cultural offer, create significant employment opportunities and help attract inward investment for the benefit of local communities.
“High streets were facing challenging times even before the coronavirus pandemic sent our town centres into lockdown.
“As we emerge from lockdown there is an even more compelling need for our high streets to reinvent themselves and what they offer.
"The council is committed to revitalising Ashford’s town centre and I’m confident that this specialist team will help us take this exciting scheme forward.”
If the Vicarage Lane car park does get built on, the authority is looking to offset the lost spaces by constructing a huge multi-storey car park in Station Road.