The owner of Townsford Mill says his plan to create a new hotel will help to revive Halstead.

John de Bruyne is seeking to get the green light from Braintree Council to turn Mill House on Causeway into a bed and breakfast.

The plans would see the former town council offices turned into six bedrooms, all with en suite bathrooms.

Mr de Bruyne, who purchased Townsford Mill last year, said a new hotel would help bring life back to a town which he believes has fallen behind the times.

He said: “I think the hotel will be a success. There isn’t much competition in Halstead but I really do believe that with all the new houses coming it’s something the town needs.

“I always compare Halstead to Sudbury and that is humming right now.

“I was in Halstead the other evening and it was dead. There were no lights on and there was hardly anyone about.

“Sudbury is doing everything right so we need to up our game. Halstead needs reviving, it needs new ideas and hopefully this can kickstart things.”

The transformation of Mill House is the first part of a scheme which could see Townsford Mill revitalised.

Both Dickens Restaurant and the Antiques Centre will remain in the mill building across the River Colne.

But Mr de Bruyne also harbours ambitions of setting up a new café in the Blacksmiths building. He said: “The mill is a gorgeous building and it’s in the centre of the town.

“What I would really like to do is put a new footbridge in front of the café so people can get across the river easily.

“The café would be open to everyone but it could also be a place for hotel guests to go for drink.

“The other thing I would like to see is get the market down on the land in front of the café and set up semi-permanent market stalls.”

Despite his ambitions for Halstead’s mill, Mr de Bruyne conceded the unsightly nature of the River Colne had to also be tackled to make the area a popular spot for visitors.

He confirmed negotiations with both the Environment Agency and Essex Highways, which is responsible for one of the banks along the river, were ongoing.

However, he admitted progress was slow.