New restaurant bid could risk development?

A FRANKIE and Benny’s restaurant proposed for the edge of Weston could cost the town centre a multi-million pound revamp, developers have warned.

The major Italian-American restaurant chain last month revealed it hopes to open an outlet alongside a Costa Coffee outlet at Flowerdown Retail Park. But the proposal is causing concern to the firm behind the �35million planned regeneration of Dolphin Square.

McLaren Life says the firms are among those they are trying to attract to its mixed retail and leisure complex in Oxford Street.

In a letter to North Somerset Council, agent for the firm, Chris Tooke, said: “Many approaches have been made in the past for Dolphin Square’s regeneration but none has progressed, that is because redevelopment will only take place if a scheme is viable in commercial terms.

“That involves the developer reassuring investors by securing suitable tenants to occupy the development and the type of big name brands that we hope to provide at Dolphin Square.

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“We are pleased that both companies have identified a demand for a presence in Weston, but if the council grants permission then the chances of these operators also taking space at Dolphin Square is greatly reduced.”

McLaren Life unveiled early ideas for its plan for Dolphin Square at a two-day exhibition last month.

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The firm, which hopes to submit a planning application before Christmas, wants to knock down the existing buildings and replace them with a cinema, hotel and a host of High Street stores.

Concern over the proposed location of Frankie and Benny’s has also been voiced by the unitary authority’s deputy leader, Elfan Ap Rees.

He said: “I do believe that we should be maximising the use of the town centre and not using these kinds of operators on the retail parks which we never intended for this type of use.

“I am not favouring Dolphin Square, but the point is we have a number of sites empty and upcoming in the centre which would be suited for such use.”

Councillor Ap Rees said he was unsure which way planning officers would go when reviewing the planning application, which is likely to be decided by a committee of councillors.

Both companies, however, have defended their choice of location in supporting documents sent to the unitary authority.

Frankie and Benny’s said its restaurants do not suit High Street spots because of late-evening opening times and unviable competition with fast food outlets.

Costa Coffee, which already has an outlet in the town centre, said it wants to expand its operation in the town due to increasing demand, and the retail park proved a suitable next site.

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