AT last – some good news for the local economy.
There had been speculation that the West Central project planned for Exeter Road, Bournemouth would fall victim to the economic downturn.
Just two months ago, it was revealed that the developer Licet Holdings Ltd was finding it difficult to fill the planned 17 restaurants.
But councillors have now been told: “The developer has now confirmed that sufficient pre-lets have been secured… they are ready to start development.”
The Exeter Road site used to house Bournemouth’s bus station but is now owned by NCP and used as a car park.
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Cllr John Beesley, deputy leader of the council, said: “If it goes ahead it really is a big vote of confidence in Bournemouth and vindicates everything we’re trying to do in the town centre.
“I’m very supportive of anything that’s going to encourage and enhance Bournemouth’s economy, particularly at a time when it’s hard to see any schemes going forward immediately.”
West Central has been described as a “pavilion in the park,” which will contain a nine-screen cinema multiplex, shops and car parking as well as the restaurants.
It is not yet known which restaurant chains have signed up to the scheme but Strada, La Tasca, Café Rouge, Nandos, Frankie and Benny’s, Pizza Hut and Wagamama were all said to have expressed an initial interest.
Once built, Bournemouth’s existing cinemas will also move to the complex, creating a new development opportunity in Westover Road.
Cllr Beesley said: “Westover Road is absolutely key to the town centre master vision, particularly the retail offer, and obviously has influences linking it to other parts of the area.
“We’re looking to see what we can do in the short term to improve retail and progress Westover Road generally.
“In the longer term, if these sites are redundant then very clearly we want to have influence in how that goes forward in the town centre master vision.”