MULTI-million pound plans for the redevelopment of Castlepoint's flawed car park have been shown exclusively to the Daily Echo.

The proposals, which will see the current structure subjected to a five-year programme of repairs, are set to go before council planners this year.

If the scheme is given the green light, the first phase of work will begin in the spring of next year.

Developers say no more than two shops at a time will have to be closed under the scheme - and none will be closed for more than a fortnight.

Mark Watt, one of the Castlepoint Ltd Partnership's directors, said: “We have concluded the exhaustive and painstaking work on the solution to the defects in the car park here at Castlepoint.

“We are now in a position to progress to the next phase of what is a fairly major programme after liaising with the borough council and store managers.”

He said the “defective structures” - which first came to light just months after the centre was redeveloped - would be demolished entirely and rebuilt, with walkways as well as the car park itself to be enhanced.

“Various options were looked at over the years, with everything from, at one end, closing the centre completely to do this in one hit, to up to 13 phases of development considered,” Mr Watt said.

“This has been whittled down to the most effective and optimum scheme which ticks all of the boxes.”

The Kier group, original contractors for the car park, will carry out the works.

Each of the five phases will take approximately nine months to complete.

Mr Watt said there were currently around 3,000 car parking spaces available at Castlepoint, but even when redevelopment is underway, it is hoped that there will never be fewer than 2,500 available.

“We are talking about four to five years to achieve this work from start to finish,” he said.

Work will be carried out on car parking stretching from Sainsbury's at one end to B&Q at the other.

A separate group of businesses, which include Nando's and Frankie and Bennys, will not be affected.

Shops bordering the walkway will be closed for up to a week while work is completed, with no more than two businesses expected to be affected at any one time.

Adrian Greenhalgh, one of Kier Group's directors, refused to confirm the amount that would be spent on the rebuild, and would not comment on the reason behind the initial troubles with the structure.

However, he said: “The recommendations that were put forward by the experts have been addressed in the redesign.”

In 2006, a report by Arup for Castlepoint condemned the design, and blamed missing elastomeric bearings for connection failures in the car park.

Customers give their views

David Brindle, of Bournemouth, said: “The car park is new, but it's always looked the way it does now. It looks like it's about 20 years old.”

Linda Crowhurst, of Bournemouth, said: “I don't have any problem with the car park. I can come here, find a parking space and get on. It does look a bit crabby, but I just want to get to the shops when I'm here.”

Lauren Gascoigne, 21, of Bournemouth, said: “I find it alright to park here. There's always a space. It's probably about time they did something about it and tidied it up though.”

Nina Ltief, 43, of Bournemouth, said: “They did it wrong right from the beginning. I think they didn't design it well enough from the start. They rushed it, and now they have to re-do it.”

A shopping saga - the tale of Castlepoint

CASTLEPOINT was the biggest thing to happen to Bournemouth's shopping scene for decades when it opened in October 2003.

There had already been years of controversy about plans for a giant retail development on the site of the town's former Hampshire Centre.

But with big names such as Marks and Spencer, Next, B&Q, Sainsbury's and Asda taking up huge units on the Castle Lane West site, there was little doubt that it would draw the shoppers.

The £69million Castlepoint project was developed by the Castlemore Limited Partnership, consisting of Castlemore Securities, Standard Life Investments and Eagle Star Life Assurance Company.

Kier Build Ltd, a subsidiary of the Kier Group, was in charge of construction, but sub-contracted the design and build of the car park to CV Buchan Ltd, which in turn sub-contracted work to PCE Ltd, a specialist installer of pre-engineered concrete systems based in Warwickshire.

In May 2003 - six months before the 41-acre site properly opened - thousands of customers were turned away because the structure of the B&Q and Sainsbury's car park was judged unsafe.

But on opening day, the public came in their droves, with long traffic tailbacks. The centre attracted 10 million visitors in its first year and won a string of awards.

In May 2005, the entire lower level of the car park was shut without warning, days after B&Q was closed and a section of car park cordoned off pending a structural review. The car park was fully re-opened later that month.

Then, on the morning of December 1, came the shock announcement that Castlepoint was being closed immediately because of cracks in the concrete floor and columns.

Units began to re-open in mid-December, with the whole centre not fully open until the middle of January 2006. Large numbers of props were in place to shore up the car park.

Compensation claims from retailers followed. Hargreaves (Sports) issued a High Court writ alleging it had lost anticipated profits of £193,851 from the closure, but in common with most tenants, it settled its claim for damages after a compensation scheme was set up.

With so many parties involved, arranging the rebuild of the car park was going to be a complicated process. And in the meantime, the centre remained hugely popular with shoppers, even through a recession.

Timeline - from Hampshire Centre to car park rebuild

February 2000: Final permission is given for a replacement to the Hampshire Centre after years of debate.

October 2005: Castlepoint opens despite unfinished highway work.

May 2003: Reports of falling concrete lead to car park spaces being cordoned off.

December 1, 2005. Castlepoint car park closes without warning. Owners say this is due to cracks appearing in the concrete floor and columns of the car park.

Mid-December 2005: Five units re-open.

Mid-January 2006: The centre is fully open, with a temporary fix in place.

December 2006 - One year after the closure, Castlepoint is fit to bursting, with an estimated 100,000 cars visiting in a week. The number of Christmas shoppers is estimated at around a million.

February 2007 - TK Maxx becomes the first Castlepoint retailer to settle its compensation claim for loss of profits from the 2005 closure. Over the next few months, Hargreaves (Sports), Boots, Arcadia, New Look, Robert Dyas and Style Barratts follow suit.

May 2007 - David Paine, of Standard Life Investments, rules out work starting in 2007 July 2007 - Castlepoint says work could get underway in the early part of 2008 and refuses to rule out store closures.

June 2008 - Constructor Kier tests out some possible ideas for the rebuild. But David Paine, of Standard Life Investments, says its “unlikely” the rebuild will start this year.

February 2010 - The owners state that it is increasingly unlikely any building work will take place for at least another year.

November 2010 - The rebuild of the car park could be “years away,” shoppers are warned. Complex negotiations with shops and insurance companies means progress has been slow.

April 2011 - Negotiations to agree a plan to rebuild the car park are said to be at an “advanced stage.” It's expected the project could take around four years.

January 2013 - Centre owners say agreement is “within touching distance”.

July 2014 - The rebuild is finally announced