Smart new homes are set to breathe life into a waterside site derelict for more than 30 years.

The mews houses will be the first to be built as part of the £25 million redevelopment of Shoreham's troubled Ropetackle.

Once plagued by vandals, it is being transformed into a focal point for the historic port town.

More than 180 homes are being built, including low-cost one-bedroom flats, novel live-work units and luxury five-bedroom family houses. Prices range from £225,000 for a two-bed apartment suitable for young professionals to £450,000 for the larger properties.

A flagship civic building fronting the site next to the Norfolk Bridge will offer space for community arts and education groups to meet and for exhibitions and conferences.

Business units and offices in the same building will form an "enterprise gateway" run by the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) aimed at attracting companies and jobs to the area.

The arches of the railway viaduct carrying the main South Coast line over the River Adur will be refurbished and turned into workshops and showrooms for artists and craft workers.

There will also be a bar and restaurant and a new riverside walkway.

Sailors who have traditionally launched their vessels from Ropetackle will get improved slipway facilities.

Jim Brathwaite, chairman of SEEDA, said: "Ropetackle has been derelict for more than 30 years and everyone has had a go at trying to do something about it. I am just grateful that it has happened on my watch that we have got the thing going.

"With 80 per cent of the first phase already sold it is obviously going to be a popular site.

"Our plans for Shoreham do not end at the Ropetackle. We are looking at Shoreham as an area for growth and development.

"It contains some of the poorest wards in the South-East and SEEDA is looking to try to do something for it."

The different parts of the development have been given names which include Cormorant Point, Kingfisher View, Lapwing Walk and Mallard House in keeping with its waterside setting.

The first phase of the development to be released includes three-bedroom mews properties designed for people who work from home.

They have a ground floor office separated from the living and family areas.

Planning regulations will restrict their use to office or service companies which do not create noise or pollution.

The one and two-bedroom apartments at Cormorant Point look towards the Adur and each has a balcony or private patio for owners to enjoy the views.

Some of the larger three to five bedroom mews homes have their own roof terraces and most have their own garage or car port.

Chris Payne, managing director of Berkley homes, said:" SEEDA bought the site in 1999 and asked us to become its development partner the following year. Although it has taken four years to get from there until now it is testimony to all the different stakeholders that we have a development we can be very proud of.

"We have had more 400 people through and have sold most of the first phase, mainly the apartments, some of the houses and the live-work units.

"The first ones will be ready for occupation by the middle of next year, although we are trying to bring that forward, with the rest running through until 2006."

Thursday April 08, 2004