Cinema, bowling alley and restaurants to open in 2014

Restaurants and the cinema could open by the end of next year

Restaurants and the cinema could open by the end of next year - Credit: McLaren Life

A NEW cinema, bowling alley and six restaurants should open at Dolphin Square next year despite developers revealing a failure to land big name retailers has prompted it to change its plans.

McLaren Life promises it will bring more shops to Weston despite no firms signing up in the two-and-a-half years since the £45million scheme was approved.

Company director Alastair Bell said: “Continuing on the back of the success of the hotel and car park and the demolition of the original Dolphin Square, it is vital to keep this momentum going and start the construction of phase three as soon as possible.

“By approaching the final phase in two stages, we can expect the first part of Dolphin Square to open in late 2014, providing a much needed boost to Weston town centre.”

Plans to build the leisure sector with nothing other than a verbal guarantee of new shops to follow, has prompted concern from one councillor over the company’s commitment and feasibility of its proposal.

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The council cannot force McLaren Life to build the shops should it go back on its promise – a move that would leave a big gap between the cinema and the Premier Inn hotel.

The Mercury revealed in 2011 that retail giant Debenhams had been in discussion with McLaren Life over moving in – a claim the developer has denied – and councillor John Crockford-Hawley believes the move broke down because the retailer wanted money to bring a store to Weston.

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McLaren Life is adamant retailers will sign up to the project, as next month it seeks North Somerset Council’s permission to change its original site layout plan, so building work on the leisure sector can begin in the autumn.

A walkway down the middle will split the new-look Dolphin Square, with the half nearest the town hall set to be built first. The side nearest the seafront is expected to be covered in tarmac before construction of the leisure facilities gets underway.

The leisure part will feature Vue Cinema, First Bowl, a gym and various restaurants including Harvester, Pizza Express and Nando’s, plus two retail units, one of which will face towards the High Street.

The Mercury understands one of the units will be a convenience store and a small town square will be situated near Emmanuel Parish Church.

After the leisure area is open, attention will turn to creating 90,000sq ft of retail units.

It is hoped that starting work on the leisure businesses will make the area a more attractive proposition to retailers.

A spokesman said: “McLaren Life will continue to work hard to secure tenants to the scheme and that process is ongoing. We are still in discussion with a number of retailers.”

However Cllr Crockford-Hawley is concerned about the change of plans.

He said: “From McLaren Life’s point of view it makes sense and for the town it makes sense as it’ll bring a bit extra to the town.

“But I’m sure I won’t be on my own if I say I’m concerned if the retail area will take place, and even if it does, whether Weston can sustain a larger retail section that it has.

“I don’t think we have a critical mass of spending people for a large spending centre.”

Cllr Crockford-Hawley said Weston needs to be careful to protect its ‘pleasure and leisure’ image and continue the good work started by the seafront improvements, rather than sacrifice what makes Weston unique.

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