BUYING the former Ocky White building will be part of an ‘ambitious’ Pembrokeshire County Council plan “transforming the future of Haverfordwest town centre.”

At a meeting of cabinet today (Monday) Pembrokeshire’s executive agreed that the way forward in a plan for the “riverside corridor” of the county town included the former department store building.

There had been concerns that rising costs and viability issues meant a September deadline to take up Welsh Government grant funding would be missed.

Cllr Paul Miller, told members: “Our aspiration for Haverfordwest is much wider than just this building, it focuses on the nucleus of the town and the river corridor.”

The Ocky White building and “flagship” library form part of this plan, along with improving the multi-storey car park, a heritage centre at the castle and continuing to move towards the cinema proposal.

“We will proactively redevelop this area in its entirety,” added Cllr Miller, cabinet member for for economy, tourism, leisure and culture.

The cost of refurbishing Ocky White for potential retail and office use has risen from £3.12m to £3.57m, including a purchase price of £460,000.

A viability review highlighted weak demand for retail space and limited demand for commercial uses.

Cllr Miller asked that further work be carried out on what the building could eventually be used for, along with a more detailed plan for the ‘river corridor’, while still taking up the Welsh Gvoernemnt’s £2.1m grant.

“We need to understand at a much more detailed level exactly what we want to deliver along that river corridor and transform the fortunes of our ailing county town,” said Cllr Miller.

Despite concerns about the revenue implications and the “risk” of the plan, cabinet member for finance Clrl Bob Kilmister said the building was “key to how we can develop Haverfordwest.”

Cllr David Lloyd added: “To do nothing would be to put up a sign saying ‘closed, no future for this town’.”

Cabinet voted unanimously to back the plan – called a leap of faith by council leader Cllr David Simpson –  to buy the building, accept the Welsh Government grant for refurbishing it and authorise further detailed work to look at the ‘river corridor’ area.