Dolphin Square to be delayed until 2015?

An artist's impression of what the site will look like once open.

An artist's impression of what the site will look like once open. - Credit: Archant

DOLPHIN Square developers are ‘hopeful but cannot guarantee’ building work will begin before the end of the year.

Behind-the-scenes talks have seen McLaren Life push back the anticipated start date for a fourth time this year, as the next phase of its £45million regeneration scheme in Weston shows few outward signs of progressing.

The Dolphin Square scheme was lauded as ‘ground-breaking’ when unveiled in October 2010, but four years on the Oxford Street precinct features a multi-storey car park, a hotel and a large amount of rubble.

Further delays are unlikely to help North Somerset Council either.

The authority agreed a 45-year lease in November 2012 for the Carlton Street car park and while it expected not to recoup all its yearly rent in the first couple of years because parking spaces would not be used often without the facilities being open, the council has run up annual losses of about £200,000 - not the worst case scenario but a performance below what was hoped. Councillors will meet on Monday to discuss the figures.

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A McLaren Life spokesman said none of the business committed to the scheme have pulled out, which include Cineworld, Nando’s, and Pizza Express.

While the firm is still aiming to complete the leisure sector for spring 2016 and hoping retailers see the project and commit to the shopping area, it can give no firm guarantee when builders will be on site. The Mercury understands the latest delay will not jeopardise the long-term viability of the scheme, which will provide a boost to Weston’s economy when it is finally delivered.

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Councillor Mike Bell, leader of the Liberal Democrat group within North Somerset, said: “The continuing lack of progress on Dolphin Square is very disappointing.

“McLaren Life persuaded councillors to let them split the site into two phases - leisure and retail - to speed things up. And here we are more than a year later still awaiting positive news.

“The constant drip of empty promises is a slap in the face for traders in St James Street and elsewhere. They’ve been asked to make sacrifices and to invest their hopes in the McLaren Life scheme. What have they to show for it?

“A car park that is losing money and a wasteland where, love it or hate it, there used to be shops, homes and signs of life and activity.

“When will the red line be crossed? When will the council say enough is enough and tell McLaren Life to clear off?

“I want the plan to succeed - it’s a good scheme that will benefit Weston. But McLaren Life must be put on notice. We will not wait forever.”

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