THE developer behind a £50million leisure scheme in Bournemouth town centre has started work – despite an ongoing wrangle over its future.
Representatives from Licet, NCP and funding partners Legal and General Property yesterday were on the ground at the Exeter Road car park to signal the start of work for the West Central complex.
But it is against the backdrop of Bournemouth Borough Council’s plans to scupper the scheme by forcing through a Compulsory Purchase Order on the site, which it says is the best place for it to build a bus hub.
Licet says it has signed contracts with Odeon Cinemas for a 2,000-seat, 10-screen operation, as well as a host of restaurant operators, and claims that the development will create 500 jobs.
But the council believes that Licet intends to do a minimal amount of work to keep its planning permission alive.
Licet director Chris Dymond told the Daily Echo on site yesterday: “It’s starting foundations and it’s in effect confirming the planning permission because the planning permission expires in a couple of months’ time, so we have to do a significant amount of work to make sure that’s implicated. There will be a gap of two or three months where we finalise the detailed design and then we have to appoint the building contractor.
“The council will do what the council wants to do. We have taken our own advice on the CPO and we’re confident enough to carry on.
“That will evolve over time and we think the risk is bigger on the council than it is on us.”
Licet says the work is on schedule and it is aiming for a completion of mid-2016. It says that 12 units have already been let to major names such as Nando’s, Ask Italian, Chiquito, Prezzo and Frankie and Benny’s.
Mr Dymond said there would be ‘fierce’ competition for the remaining space, with Bournemouth-based operators also in the mix. Andrew Ferguson, head of leisure at Legal and General Property, added: “We’re very pleased to be in Bournemouth and in at the start of this flagship development that has been backed all the way by the operators.
“It’s a vote of confidence in Bournemouth as well as providing a major financial boost for jobs and the local economy.”
Council not backing down...
In yesterday's Daily Echo, council leader John Beesley insisted the authority would not back down over the prime town centre site.
He said it would continue to pursue the CPO despite Licet having planning permission and deals in place with Odeon and restaurants.
Cllr Beesley questioned Licet’s claims and said it did not affect its plans to build a bus hub.
In yesterday’s Echo he said he had not seen any documentary proof that Licet was in a position to proceed and that if they did so, they would be doing it ‘at risk’.
The council is drawing up a planning application for a bus hub before applying for a CPO. If successful, it plans to spend up to £5million building the hub in an effort to reduce congestion in Gervis Place.
When contacted by the Echo yesterday, Cllr Beesley added: “It’s the minimum amount of work prior to the expiration of their planning consent to keep it live and it’s what you would expect any developer to do.”