THE SHED in Bordon’s new town centre has opened for business – with regeneration bosses promising this is only the start.

The new home for independent businesses was expected to attract around 6,000 visitors over the sun-drenched bank-holiday weekend.

James Child, the leader of the project to breathe new life into Whitehill and Bordon, said: “After seeing the building on architects’ drawings for so long, it’s great to see it come to life and to see how popular it is. It’s amazing.

“Everything you see here now first started two years ago – it all takes time.

“I’m delighted Morrisons will be opening a supermarket close to The Shed, we expect the NHS to sign off the new health centre next month – the building of that should take place at the same time as Morrisons and the multi-storey car park– the five restaurants in the Sergeants’ Mess should be ready to open by Christmas next year, with offices, bars, a museum and art gallery. It’s all coming together.”

And living in Hogmoor, Phillip Davies watched as the plans unfolded to give Bordon a proper town centre.

Two years ago, he decided he wanted to do more than watch – so stood to become a local councillor.

Mr Davies is now East Hampshire District Council’s assistant portfolio holder for the regeneration of Whitehill and Bordon – and has played a major role in seeing the project move forward .

He said: “It’s incredible. It’s great to see it open, to have a town centre bringing together all these communities in one place. Everything is here.

“I was elected in May 2019 and became a councillor because I was nosey and wanted to be involved in the regeneration and to help make sure it proceeded at pace.

“I was very lucky to be given the role of assistant portfolio holder and to be able to work on it.

“To illustrate how seriously we take this, we have the leader of the council as the portfolio holder.

“I feel lucky to be part of that team and the regeneration company is amazing to work with.

“We have a proper town centre now, it’s amazing – it’s not a new town centre, it is the first town centre.

“There is ample parking here but we shouldn’t need it as wherever you are in town it’s pretty easy to walk to.

“When the Sergeants’ Mess opens, this will be probably be the only place locally apart from Petersfield that has proper sit-down restaurants in it.

“In Alton, for example, there is lots happening in the town with great coffee shops, but here we will have several proper sit-down restaurants and that will really put us on the map.

“The infrastructure has been going on at pace. If you’re talking schools and transport, those things came quite early, and we have the leisure centre of course.

“We have a supermarket and health hub to come, and now you can actually see where they are going to be.

“While there has been permission to build the houses, many of them are not in situ right now. When they are built, they are sold very quickly.

“Is there a danger the school will fill up too quickly? No, not at all – there are plans to expand it on site – that was always part of the plan, there is plenty of space. But we’re way off needing to do that yet, way off.

“One thing we often forget is a lot of the people working on this project are local.

“What is exciting is that now you can actually see the progress. Some of it is still hidden behind hoardings but when you stand in front of the leisure centre you can see all things start to open up.

“Before, we knew they were coming but it wasn’t real because you couldn’t see them, whereas now you can.

“We’ve got the exciting bits to come now. And the pace this is all happening – the school, the relief road, leisure centre, now The Shed – has unfolded is phenomenal, despite the problems brought by the pandemic.”

The new manager of The Shed, Martyna Cawdron, is also excited by the pace of change – but wants to see three more businesses joining the adventure.

She said: “It’s going to be lovely – with a drive-in cinema and restaurants coming, when it is all up and running it’s going to be quite a big attraction.

“There will also be a large cinema screen in The Shed.

“There are only three vacant units in The Shed and what I would really like to find now is a florist and two more retail businesses. A florist would be good as it would give a real market vibe as people walk into The Shed.

“The numbers have been great – 550 people came through the door in the first couple of hours and many of the retailers weren’t even open as the official opening wasn’t until a little later.

“It’s the kind of place where people will make repeat visits. The traders in The Shed will stay the same but the market outside will be different, and there will be pop-up markets inside. We will put on events that will be changing constantly to give people something to look forward to each time they come.

“There will be a market here every Saturday, with a vegan market every first Sunday of the month.”

Cllr Julie Butler, the deputy leader of EHDC, said: “It’s amazing. I live in Petersfield and when I drove here it was lovely to see so many people walking to The Shed. That’s not something you see much these days.

“This is going to be such a lovely hub for people to enjoy. The Shed is a big step in the new town centre.

“The school has been put in, there’s the community cafe, a youth facility on its way – although some may feel progress has been slow, people can see now it’s more than just about houses.

“There is a lot going on. People can see now how it will all come together – it’s like a jigsaw puzzle, finally coming together.

“It’s good for Bordon to have a town centre and in a couple of years it will be a very different place again, with Morrisons here by June 2023.

“It has the wow factor when you walk here. People in Bordon are very lucky.”

Whitehill and Bordon regeneration project leader James Child said that on the upper floor of The Shed, there will be six SME offices and hot desks, with an event space for parties and receptions, and a seating area overlooking the ground floor.

“It will become a real hub,” he said.