Plans to spend £15million on work to improve the ‘front door’ to Stevenage – which will include a £9m car park and the potential relocation of the Gordon Craig Theatre – have moved a step closer.

The multi-million project will create an “attractive, appealing, sustainable and high quality” welcome to the town, while the new car park will meet an increasing demand from rail commuters and visitors.

The council will also explore the creation of a new quarter to house residential, office and retail units in the place of the Gordon Craig Theatre and current leisure facilities.

Stevenage Borough Council outlined the plans for the so-called Station Gateway at a meeting of the council’s executive on December 8.

The project is one of nine which will be funded as a result of the council’s successful bid for £37.5m from the government’s Towns Fund.

The Station Gateway, which will receive £6.5m from the pot, aims to improve the first impression visitors get of the town, from the railway station and new bus interchange.

In its business case for the project, the council has said transformation of the space “could have the greatest regeneration impact for Stevenage”, by supporting the growth of the town’s economy and opening up the space for new business.

As part of the Towns Fund process, local authorities have to provide business cases of each project before the money is released.

In total, £15.5m will be spent on the project, with £6.5m from the Towns Fund, £5m from the borough council and £4m through other investment.

The bulk of that spending appears to be on the new multi-storey car park in Lytton Way, which is being given a budget of £9.7m, with a target construction price of £8.9m.

The scheme will include 622 spaces – up from 339 – including 30 Blue Badge spaces. Initially 25 per cent of the spaces will be electrical vehicle charging bays, with infrastructure in place to increase this to 50 per cent.

The cycle hub will include room for around 80 bikes and three accessible bikes.

The business case said the multi-storey will feature, “a design which includes perforated metal facades incorporating designs highlighting some of the best features of the town, as a unique car park for Stevenage”.

Speaking at the executive meeting, Councillor John Gardner said the council were working with award-winning German developers Huber to create the scheme.

He said: “We fully believe, wherever possible, in appointing local companies, and the bus interchange across the road is being done that way, but we are also absolutely insistent that in our town centre we are not going to build any second-rate buildings, and especially in gateway positions.”

The council’s chief financial officer, Clare Fletcher, added the car park would replace parking lost to building work elsewhere in the town.

Ms Fletcher said: ”The key point we made to the Development Board is this is about replacing car parking in the town, this isn’t necessarily a money making exercise for the council. This is about replacing parking where car parks are being used for regeneration purposes.”

The Station Gateway will be developed through two phases. The build of the new car park, first public realm improvements and relocation of leisure facilities will take place during the initial phase.

The second phase will include considering relocation options for the theatre and further public realm improvements.

Ahead of the construction work, the council said they will consider how best to minimise disruption while the car park is out of use, which could include utilising existing capacity in other car parks, or the introduction of “park and stride” at alternative sites.

The council said it hoped final commitments for the project will be in place by February 2022, which would facilitate a start on the car park in April – subject to being granted planning permission.

Work continues on the development of the bus interchange in Lytton Way, which is close by to the leisure centre.

In August, the council celebrated the final beam being placed on the main building of the interchange with a topping out ceremony.