A TURF-CUTTING ceremony has marked the start of a £27million project to build more than 100 flats on a car park in Bournemouth town centre.

Approval was given for the council-backed plan to construct 113 apartments at Berry Court car park, St Peter’s Road, earlier this year.

The units will be available for the private rental market only, with the scheme encompassing a new multi-storey car park for the public and residents.

Part of the borough’s Town Centre Vision, the project is being created by the Bournemouth Development Company (BDC) – a public-private partnership between developer Morgan Sindall and the council – and private rental company Radian Group.

Council leader John Beesley said: “Attracting new residents to come and live in the town centre is an essential part of the Vision.

“Berry Court will help us accelerate the delivery of much-needed new homes while safeguarding public parking.

“This combination of activities will boost regeneration and secure long-term economic growth.”

The authority had faced criticism from one of its own councillors at a cabinet meeting in April when it was decided to offload the site to Radian for £1.2million on a long lease.

This will mean Radian benefits from any income generated by letting the apartments, not the council.

The decision was made despite the borough launching its own private property holding company late last year, and prompted backbencher Cllr Donald McQueen to describe it as a “missed opportunity”.

Lindsay Todd, chief executive of Radian Group, said: “We are really looking forward to partnering on Berry Court and providing tenants with an attractive high-quality living environment.

“It’s a project that we believe will bring a host of benefits to Bournemouth town centre and those people looking for the option of renting locally.”

And Duncan Johnston, development director of BDC, added: “In what has been a co-operative team success, many people have been working in partnership to get us to the point where we are ready to start on site.

“We’re delighted to have achieved financial closure and be on the ground now starting this important rejuvenation project for Bournemouth.”

The development is expected to take two years to complete.

Among other local companies involved in the scheme are the Bournemouth planning consultancy Terence O’Rourke and the Fordingbridge architectural practice BrightSpace.