Retail fears for Dolphin Square with flats ‘to complete development’

McLaren Life's future vision Dolphin Square.

McLaren Life's future vision Dolphin Square. - Credit: Archant

MCLAREN Life is in danger of ‘missing the boat’ in getting retailers signed up, after the Sovereign Shopping Centre’s new owners revealed multi-million expansion plans.

Cllr Tony Lake, executive member for finance on North Somerset Council, has criticised the firm behind big plans to renovate Dolphin Square for not accepting support offered to them by the authority.

Meanwhile a subsidiary company of McLaren Life on the project – Life Property Ltd – has posted online that the planned retail section will be combined with ‘residential and student accommodation’.

Last week the Mercury exclusively revealed Vixcroft Ltd had bought Weston’s Sovereign Shopping Centre for £30.1million and plans to knock units together to offer national chains larger stores and is considering making the mall larger.

Such a move would undoubtedly make McLaren Life’s efforts to attract retailers to its £45million Dolphin Square project more difficult, having failed to get one to sign since the scheme was first announced in October 2010.

North Somerset last month agreed to take on a lease for about two-thirds of Enterprise House’s office space, so developer Dowlas UK could get building work started, and Cllr Lake said a similar offer had been made to McLaren Life.

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Addressing Weston Civic Society, he said: “It’s really disappointing that McLaren Life has not got on with that scheme.

“We have tried to kick-start it in a couple of ways but it turned those down which is very disappointing.

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“But it will be built and that car park will make money for North Somerset.

“The problem is getting people to sign up to the scheme.

“McLaren Life is getting to a stage where it needs 80 per cent (of units) signed up.

“Once one unit gets opened at that site then other partners will want to be a part of it.

“If McLaren Life does not get on with it, then it will miss the boat.

“The offer from the council is still there to kick-start it – like we are doing with Enterprise House.”

With increasing competition for retailers, there has been speculation as to what else McLaren Life could use the site for, should it continue to struggle to attract high street names.

McLaren Life has previously refused to rule out building flats alongside the leisure sector on the site – and the likelihood of that happening appears to be increasing.

Life Property’s website states the final phase at Dolphin Square, once the leisure facilities are up and running will include ‘retail and First Bowl as well as residential and student accommodation to complete the redevelopment’.

When the Mercury asked McLaren Life as head of the scheme to explain the scale of accommodation it has planned for Dolphin Square, its spokesman refused to comment.

However he did say the firm expects to be able to announce ‘additional lettings’ in the ‘near future’.

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