Fears grow for Dolphin Square 'ghost town'
PUBLISHED: 12:30 23 September 2011
BUSINESSES in Dolphin Square fear for their survival and believe the area will become a ghost town after developers pushed back building work in the precinct by six months.
Shop owners were originally told they had to vacate their premises by next March, when the area was scheduled to be bulldozed - but now they can stay until September.
Joe Eavis, managing director for Living Homes which runs two outlets at Dolphin Square, said the uncertainty made things difficult for the business as nobody knew what would remain until it is too late.
He said: “We have been given notice to leave by the end of March but there may be an option to stay an extra six months now.
“It’s all very well being offered to let us stay another six months but we have already had to make plans for March.
“Our intention is very much to stay in Weston. The people have treated us very well so it would be foolish for us to move on.
“Ever since we have been here we have known about Dolphin Square (redevelopment) and you can clearly see something is happening with the building work that’s already started.”
A spokesman for developers McLaren Life said delays to building the new council offices meant the current Somerset House building will be required longer than originally thought.
He said businesses were not being forced to stay at Dolphin Square and that there is ‘no reason’ to believe the ‘flexible’ completion date of 2013 would be affected by the delay.
A spokesman for the council said its continued need for Somerset House was agreed to by the developers.
He said: “We have an agreement with McLaren Life for a short extension on our Somerset House lease so staff can stay there until their new office accommodation is ready.
“This was acceptable to McLaren Life since it won’t disrupt their phased development of the Dolphin Square site. Indeed, the first phase has already started with the new hotel being constructed in Carlton Street and Beach Road.”
But other traders remain unhappy at the uncertainty.
Ric Collier, a sales director said his firm was only informed of the change of plans three weeks ago and was growing frustrated at not being told fully what was happening.
And he said the extension would not benefit any businesses which remain because of the difficulty with car parking.
Asif Ghani, from Aniqa, said it would be moving within six weeks because he had already had enough difficulties and was looking forward to starting afresh.
The first phase of the £35million redevelopment started last month when builders began work on the new Premier Inn hotel.
It is due to be followed by major new retail offerings - including Debenhams and Primark - and leisure offerings such as a cinema and bowling alley.