THIS year makes 18 years since the opening of Castlepoint Shopping Centre.

However, 2021 also marks almost two decades since problems started to occur at the car park.

As construction work on phase three of the shopping centre’s car park is set to be completed this month, we look back at what has led to this point and the outlook of the ongoing repair work.

The saga begins

Formerly the site of the Hampshire Centre, a large American-style shopping centre likened to the giant retail malls common in the USA, Castlepoint Shopping Centre opened in 2003.

Bournemouth Echo: Castlepoint Shopping Park

However, months after its unveiling, problems began to appear on the shopping centre’s car park.

In May 2003, reports of falling concrete led to car park spaces being cordoned off and, in December 2005, the car park closed to visitors without any prior warning.

The owners later said this was due to cracks appearing in the concrete floor and columns, with netting and props were used to reinforce the structure.

Despite the car park being fully re-opened in January 2006 with a temporary fix in place, negotiations over a permanent solution took more than a decade after faults first appeared.

In May 2007, David Paine of Standard Life Investments said work on the car park would not start that year and constructor Kier tested some plausible ideas for the rebuild in June 2008.

Castlepoint’s owners said in 2010 that the rebuild of the car park could be “years away”, due to complex negotiations with the shops and insurance companies.

Bournemouth Echo:

In April 2011, talks to agree a plan to rebuild the car park were said to be at an ‘advanced stage’.

The Castlepoint Partnership was granted planning permission to demolish and rebuild the two-level car park was submitted in July 2014, 11 years after structural problems were first reported, with work commencing in 2016 following yet more delays.

Echo reports at the time stated that work was expected to be complete by Christmas 2018.

Work gets underway on phase one

The first phase of works on the car park began in June 2018, with a section of the car park near to Sainsbury's closed off for a nine-month period.

In an effort to minimise disruption, the repair work was to be carried out in five main phases, each taking nine to 10 months, with work halted for six weeks each Christmas.

A temporary car park was set up to ensure the total provision never drops below 2,500 spaces.

Bournemouth Echo:

In March 2018, a spokesman for the Castlepoint Partnership said: “The ongoing programme to reconstruct the car park and walkways at Castlepoint has reached another key milestone, following the completion of earlier enabling works.

“In June, the works will move into the next stage of a phased five-year programme.

“Each phase will take approximately nine months to complete and will then re-open before work starts on the subsequent phase.”

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Fast forward to September 2019 and the first phase of the work was opened to the public.

Phase two commences

The next phase of work, which also started in September 2019, involved the tearing down of the old car park from outside of the Boots store to close to the entrance of Next.

The second phase was due for completion at Easter 2020, with owners revealing it was to be followed by a further three phases with the entire project expected to be completed in 2023.

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At the time, the Echo reported that Castlepoint manager David Pickett said he was happy with the way the work is progressing and delighted with the “lighter and more airy” appearance of the new car park structure.

Covid couldn’t curtail construction

As the country plunged into lockdown in March 2020, management at the shopping centre ensured that work on Castlepoint’s car park could continue despite the coronavirus outbreak.

All shops were made to close apart from those offering essentials. These being Sainsbury’s, Asda, the lower floor of M&S, Boots and NatWest.

Bournemouth Echo:

The fact that construction work wasn’t halted meant that construction was able to stay on schedule, with phase two completed in June 2020.

In March 2020, centre manager David Pickett said: “The work on the Castlepoint shopping centre car park is currently continuing in line with the latest advice from the government.

“We will continue to monitor updates.”

Roll in phase three

The third set of works on the shopping centre car park started in the middle of 2020, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK.

As work began on the section of car park in front of Marks and Spencer, the Castlepoint Shopping centre car park was divided into two sections, with the red car park at the Sainsbury’s end and the blue car park near Asda and B&Q.

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Although they were not connected, four access points were provided to ensure customers could enter and exit the car park easily, which managed to maintain its 2,500 parking spaces.

Where does this leave us now?

With construction work now up to the angle of the ‘L’ shape shopping centre, it is safe to say that the completion of phase three will ensure that repairs of the car park are over halfway to completion.

With two phases to go, the fourth section of works is to start with haste this summer.

Bournemouth Echo:

Management staff say that the programme of development is still on track to be completed by early 2023, two decades after the shopping centre was originally opened.

Centre Manager David Pickett said: “Phase three of the car park works is scheduled to complete in May this year with the whole programme due to complete early 2023.

“In line with Government guidance we are looking forward to Starbucks, Nando’s, Marks and Spencer Café, Costa Coffee fully reopening on May 17, when customers can dine inside again.”

The fourth phase is predicted to take place from outside New Look up to the closed Argos store, with the final set of works encompassing the parking areas outside of Asda and B&Q.