THE multi-million pound refurbishment of a Christchurch shopping centre will see trade ‘improve dramatically’, according to business leaders.

As well as a £3m facelift for the Saxon Square shopping centre, a building previously left empty for 20 years has been turned into a new hotel.

President of Christchurch Chamber of Trade, Stephen Bowden, heaped praise on the project, saying it will provide an economic boost for the area.

“The Chamber of Trade is keen for Christchurch to be the best it can be and we are very excited about the regeneration project,” he said.

“The regeneration project coupled with the changes the council recently made to car parking charges is already having a clear benefit on the centre.

“As a destination, Christchurch will always have to compete against bigger towns but our selling point is our quality shops with a vibrant range and now we have a cleaner, pleasant centre which will encourage shoppers to keep coming back.”

Mr Bowden said the centre had previously looked ‘dark and dated’ and that its fresh appearance made it more welcoming for shoppers.

The centre’s manager, Bryan Taylor, added that it had been a challenging project, but that he now hopes shoppers will be able to enjoy the refurbished facility for years to come.

He said: “The centre looks better than ever.

“The paving makes the centre more accessible to shoppers and the new seating encourages people to relax and enjoy spending time at Saxon Square.”

A celebration to mark the project’s completion, including live music and children’s activities, will take place at the centre between 10am and 4pm on Saturday, July 26.