THE date has finally been set for work to start on a £30m project which will kick-start the regeneration of Northwich town centre.
Work will begin on a three-year operation to stabilise Northwich's abandoned salt mines on Tuesday, January 25.
Vale Royal Borough Council's planners have spent more than a year carrying out intense logistical preparations for the work, and have already spent £7m to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to start the operation to fill the mines.
Council bosses say it will mean that acres of blighted land in and around the town centre will become suitable for major developments - and say they have a string of big businesses interested in opening up in Northwich.
The town's MP, Mike Hall, told the House of Commons this week that he was delighted it was off the ground at last. He told fellow MPs: 'If we do not stabilise the mines, Northwich will disappear into a great big cavern.
'In 1997, I approached the then Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to ask the Government to find a solution. They brought forward a scheme whereby authorities can apply to the Government for funds to assist them in dealing with non-coal mining subsidence.
'Vale Royal Borough Council has been granted £28m for a stabilisation scheme for Northwich town centre, which involves pumping pulverised fuel ash and cement into the ground, while simultaneously removing the saturated salt. The ash and cement set like concrete, so the town centre can be stabilised. Pumping will start on January 25, which is a fantastic thing for Northwich and the Government rightly deserve congratulations.'
The £30m project will be carried out at the old mines at Penny's Lane, Neumann's, Baron's Quay and Witton Bank, and in total some 171m gallons of brine will be removed. At the same time, the huge caverns, 300ft below the surface, will be filled with the grout. The mix will be delivered into the town centre via pipelines which run under the town to a purpose-built pumping station and mixing plant at Brunner Mond's Winnington Works site, meaning lorries won't have to come into the town centre carrying the grout.
But as part of the works, council chiefs are seeking permission to make Leicester Street one-way for up to 18 months. The traffic order will come into force between January and February 10 and the restrictions will run eastbound from Old Warrington Road to the Station Road roundabout at Chester Way.
The project is expected to be officially launched by the borough council in the next few weeks.