THE owner of one of Halstead’s most iconic buildings has drawn up ambitious plans to cash in on the town’s TV antiques fame, the Gazette can reveal.

Townsford Mill boss John de Bruyne has ripped up plans for a hotel in Mill House, next to the antiques centre, which straddles the River Colne.

He now wants to expand the antiques centre into Mill House, which has been council offices and a B&B in the past.

And the Dicken’s restaurant, on the groundfloor of the mill, will be rebranded as Lovejoy’s in homage to the hugely popular BBC series, which was filmed there.

Current restaurant boss John Dicken is due to leave later this month after 15 years at the mill.

Mr de Bruyne hopes focussing on the mill’s antiques heritage will draw more people to the town.

The building featured in series four of Lovejoy, back in the Eighties, and last month TV’s Antiques Road Trip returned to film there for the fifth time.

Mr de Bruyne said: “The antiques centre is very successful and good for Halstead.

“It seems like it was the right way to go.

“We have more than 80 dealers and we are looking to expand. We are also looking to get on the internet.”

Mr de Bruyne is looking to submit a new planning application to Braintree Council to create a link between the antiques centre and Mill House.

“It has been used for antiques in the past,” he said.

“It has lovely rooms for finer things like furniture, clocks and mirrors.”

Mr de Bruyne said the mill’s TV fame made Lovejoy’s an obvious name for the revamped restaurant when it opens.

He hopes his plans for the mill will help turn the town into a tourist trap.

He is even considering getting a licence so weddings can be staged in the historic building, which dates back to 1740 and was one of the first Courtauld mills in the area.

He added: “We have a very good new chef starting who will be serving all day, doing a sort of cafe bistro.

“It is exciting. Halstead has got a long way to go to be the way it was before.

“The better the mill is, the better it is for all of us.

“The town needs more energy and I’m jealous of Sudbury. I was coming through on a Friday night at around 8pm and Halstead was dead.

“We need to get it buzzing again.”