WORK has begun to renovate an “eyesore” derelict shop that has sat empty on a high street in a conservation area, to the delight of local traders and residents.

The owners of 21-23 Wanstead High Street, WX Investments, won the right to refurbish the former shop, extend and convert the first and second floors to nine flats, and extend the pet shop next door, back in July 2005.

Five years on, the developer have begun refurbishment work and are considering carrying out the plans to extend the property.

David Hounsell, of WX Investments, said: “We managed to begin work last week. We did put in an application for an extension in case we needed it, but in the end we didn't.

“We haven't yet decided if we're going to extend the properties, but we will definitely build the flats above, and there will be two newly renovated shops on the high street.

“We're very aware of the conservation status of the high street, and we're going to make sure we put in the right kinds of windows and that type of thing.

“We're not the type of developer to just ignore such things and put in plastic where there should be wood or anything like that.”

Earlier this year the Guardian reported that the former antique shop had become infested with rats and pigeons but Nayyer Sheikh, of neighbouring shop Wanstead Domestic Appliances, said the problem had been addressed.

Mr Sheikh, 29, said: “There was a rat problem a few months ago but the owners sorted it out and gave me a number to call in case we saw any more, but since then it's been fine. The owners have been really good.

“We're pleased to see that work is going on and we're definitely looking forward to seeing it being refurbished.”

In April the Guardian reported that traders were claiming the building was structurally unsound, and pointed to the badly leaning chimney stacks.

John Wishart, manager of Simple and Natural health food shop, 50, said: “Obviously it's an eyesore because it's been that way for years, it's been dragging this end of the high street down.

“If it's developed it'll be a good thing for area, a very good thing. It'll make a real difference. The high street needs a facelift and a bit of a spruce up.

“When you consider the problem with homelessness in London, to think that such a lot of space above that shop and the one next door were lying empty for so long, it's pretty disgraceful.”

Wanstead Society member Billie Figg said: “Apparently Wanstead High Street is the only high street with conservation status in the borough so it's terrible that this old shop has gotten into such a state of disrepair.”