Square to be bulldozed for shops, hotel and cinema

A CINEMA, hotel and line-up of top-brand High Street shops are set to feature in a �35million revamp of a tired shopping area in Weston.

Investor McLaren Life is drawing up plans to flatten Dolphin Square after winning a deal to buy the lease for the North Somerset Council-owned site.

The London-based firm this week lined out its intention to replace the square with a large shopping centre with a mix of between 20-25 leisure and retail units, including a cinema and hotel.

The company, which is due to complete the deal in November, will reveal its provisional plans at a public exhibition in the town in the coming weeks.

Director Simon Berry told the Mercury he could not wait to get started on the ‘ground-breaking’ project.

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He said: “This is the first real opportunity for a shopping complex fit for the 21st century which will bring in big store operators. I think this will be enormous for the town, and so far we’ve had good interest from operators.

“Weston has been constrained by the opportunity for further retail development for the past 25 years. This will change all of that and provide a stepping stone for future improvement work.”

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The firm says it hopes to submit a planning application for the scheme by the end of the year, beginning work in stages from next spring.

The proposal will follow guidelines set in a Dolphin Square Supplementary Planning Document, published by North Somerset Council in 2007.

It details the demolition of buildings between Union Street, Carlton Street, Beach Road and Oxford Street to make way for leisure facilities, shops and apartments.

However, Mr Berry said his plan would not include residential apartments, stating such a use would not mix with leisure units at the site.

He also insisted the firm would stick with the project for the long haul, despite the uncertain economic climate.

Mr Berry said: “The good thing about putting a plan like this together during a time of recession is that things can only get better.

“We’re confident that this will go ahead, and by investing the amount of money we have for the lease purchase I think we have signalled our commitment.

“We’ll be wanting to move this forward and make things happen as soon as possible, not just sit on the site.”

Following the purchase, Mr Berry said his company would open talks with current tenants and look to carry out maintenance improvements over the coming months.

The company will take control of the square from Hansteen Life, which incorporated the lease when it took over Kilmartin London in 2007.

The five-storey courtyard development was built in the 1960s, but is now judged to have very limited architectural merit and is not considered worthy of retention.

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