The head of the council's regeneration team, Peter Grant, said it wanted a mix of retail, residential and commercial buildings.
He said the project would adhere to the principles of the urban white paper published last year, adding: "We want to turn the town around in a five-year period." He noted: "This is about creating places for people and ensuring stakeholder involvement. We also want to ensure the quality of what can be expected by residents and people who come to shop." Grant would not comment on the shortlisted practices, but they are believed to include masterplanning specialist EDAW and US firm Skidmore Owings Merrill.
The council has earmarked six or seven sites that could be redeveloped. The first phase is likely to be a development competition for a mixed-use scheme valued at more than £10m. The details will depend on the proposals in the strategy and any development competition.
Grant said he could not put a value on the five-year programme but said he expected significant investment from developers and also hoped to attract funding from the regional development agencies and the European Union.