A Poundland unit in the centre of Stevenage could become a multi-million pound enterprise centre according to new plans unveiled by the borough council.

Stevenage Borough Council has outlined the proposal to create a new science-led enterprise centre, which would provide new space for labs, workshops, offices and co-working in the town.

The £12m project is the last of nine to be funded by the government’s Towns Fund, which also includes a new leisure centre and garden square.

The borough council was awarded £37.5m from central government towards regeneration projects in the area, but each proposal needs to have its business case approved before work can begin.

The Town Centre Enterprise Centre is the last business case to be brought forward by the council, and is aimed to capitalise on the emerging science opportunities within the town.

Developers Reef have proposed the development, and are expected to purchase the Queensway unit currently housing Poundland ahead of work beginning on the plans.

The centre will include an incubator, labs and flexible space in the town centre, and is expected to create around 59 new jobs. Council officers expect the scheme to generate an extra £3.37m to the local economy a year, while promoting the town’s life science industry.

It’s hoped the centre would encourage science-based entrepreneurs to start up new ventures and help their growth, or alternatively be used for larger businesses to invest in Stevenage. While there will be a focus on science start-ups, business across sectors will be able to take advantage of the space.

The business case also noted that this would also bring something new to the town centre, which would help increase demand for other businesses including nearby shops and restaurants.

The Towns Fund grant will contribute £4m towards the £12m budget for the project, with £1m of public sector funding expected along with £7.7m from the private sector.

At a meeting of the borough council’s Executive on March 16, councillors were told the plans were at an early stage, and other funding streams had yet to be agreed.

This work will continue over the next six to 12 months, at which point an updated delivery programme is expected to be finalised with the developers.

A report prepared ahead of the meeting said: “The project will also accelerate the diversification of the town centre, which is in significant need of regeneration, at the same time generating greater demand for the products and services of the retail, hospitality and business services based in the town centre. “

Speaking to members of the executive, council leader Sharon Taylor said: “I think this is a really exciting opportunity. We do take note that this project is slightly further away than some of the others we’ve looked at.

“That’s likely to be the case, but with the development already under way the Autolus headquarters that’s going on at Marshgate as we speak, and the Co-Space which is already finished and operating in the town centre, this will give us a further element for skills and business opportunities, creating a real solid life sciences quarter in our town centre.

“I think that’s a really exciting opportunity for Stevenage and for our young people, our potential entrepreneurs coming through our schools at the moment.”

Cllr Taylor added: “It’s really exciting as with all the business cases we’ve looked at, and together they form a real solid transformation of our town centre and it’s something we can all be excited about and look forward to.”