Business owners in Stevenage face being bought out of their properties to ensure a £500 million regeneration scheme in the town centre can continue to go ahead.

Stevenage Borough Council’s Executive Committee has agreed to use Compulsory Purchase Order powers, if required, as part of the scheme.

The SG1 masterplan includes 1,800 new homes and over 40,000 square feet of retail units over three phases of development.

The council already owns the majority of the land and buildings, but a council officers' report says there are “a number of interests” that will need to be acquired to facilitate the second and third phases of the project.

CPO powers give councils a statutory right to purchase a property, usually at market value price, if they can prove it is within the public interest.

Council officers have recommended using CPO powers ‘as a last resort’, if mutual agreement between parties cannot be reached.

The marked CPO land will cover commercial business properties along Danestrete and the current bus station.

Preparatory work can now be carried out, including land referencing to identify affected businesses and all land interests for each property.

At this stage it does not mean any specific action will be taken, and the process will happen alongside negotiations with landowners.

A CPO can take in the region of two years to complete. The council officers’ report says: “Promoting the potential use of CPO powers at an early stage will provide certainty for the SG1 regeneration scheme and would allow the necessary preliminary processes, required for the making of an order, to be carried out at the same time as negotiations with the landowners are ongoing, saving time and supporting the negotiation process.”

A risk assessment included in the report claims that there is a high likelihood that it won’t be possible to acquire all sites by agreement.

The first work on the SG1 development began in January this year, but work on the Danestrete site and The Boulevard, near the current bus station, are not expected to begin until 2023 and 2025 respectively.