CONSTRUCTION work for a £20million 10-storey landmark tower is expected to start in the heart of Stroud this year, the SNJ can reveal.

Wallbridge Wharf, which would be three metres shorter than nearby Hill Paul, would be mainly used for employment, but would also provide space for retail and accommodation.

Landowner Chelbury Homes, which is in the final stages of signing up businesses to occupy the floors, hopes to complete the project before the canal is re-opened.

Speaking to the SNJ this week, managing director Julian Magee said: "This lovely new building will galvanise Stroud again and perhaps take it forward.

"It will be Stroud’s second regeneration.

"From what I can gather, there would be probably in excess of 100 permanent jobs in the building and it will also add to the canal regeneration."

The tower, which would be built on a slope, would be 25 metres high if seen from Cheapside, where the groundfloor would be at level four.

As the SNJ revealed in September, Chelbury Homes planned the top five floors to be flats and facilities for assisted living, levels three and four to each have a large shop, and levels one and two to feature town houses.

However the £15million proposal for the site, which has been barren since Jewson relocated about 20 years ago, were revised after several potential buyers pulled out due to the recession.

Now, after nearly two months of negotiations, the landowner expects to sign up four local businesses to buy the floors within the next two weeks.

Most of the 120,000 square feet of space would be used for employment but there would also be room for retail and accommodation.

Mr Magee said he could not yet reveal the identity of the businesses or what is planned for each floor.

Architects are working on the design, which is expected to feature brick-red cladding on the front and either real or mock Cotswold stone lower down.

"The wharf will be a landmark building rather like Hill Paul," explained Mr Magee, who said he was ‘quite confident’ planning permission would be granted.

"It will be a building of good architectural merit."

A planning application will be made within the next six weeks if all the businesses are signed up. There will be no additional public consultation.

Construction is hoped to start by the end of this year and finish by spring in spring 2011.