CONSTRUCTION work on a nine-screen cinema complex in Poole town centre is expected to start in the New Year.

The development, which forms part of the Dolphin Shopping Centre’s £26 million programme of investment with Legal & General, will also include four new casual dining restaurants.

The former Argos store and adjoining units will be converted into the new cinema complex, which will be the first of its kind in the town centre. Empire Cinemas signed a 25-year lease to operate the cinema.

One of the cinema screens will be open-air on the rooftop in a bid to give a different experience for residents and visitors.

No firm date has yet been set for the opening of the complex and it is not known which restaurants will be moving in.

Empire used to operate the multiplex at Tower Park in Poole but it is now operated by Cineworld.

Legal & General, which bought the Dolphin Centre in 2013, has introduced other changes to the centre throughout 2018, including improvements to the mall and new retailers.

Among the shops to open in the last year are Deichmann, H&M, Smiggle, JD, and an upgraded New Look store, which now takes up two units across two floors.

John Grinnell, centre manager, said: “It’s been a hugely successful year and we’re very excited to see what 2019 will bring.

“We’ve introduced some huge changes to the centre and have exciting plans in the pipeline for next year to celebrate our 50th anniversary – a huge milestone for the town’s shopping centre.

“Refurbishment at the centre is well under way; phase two is almost finished and all improvements scheduled for the internal mall are now complete. A refit of the Plaza is yet to be carried out, and new branded signage will be installed. Our refurbishment works will continue into early next year.”

This year saw the centre unveil new public toilets in the main mall, with touch-free technology and Changing Places facilities. These new facilities include a ceiling track hoist, a height-adjustable, adult-sized changing bench and improved wheelchair accessibility.