As regional areas continue to gain an increased amount of interest from developers seeking space for retail and leisure complexes, cinema operators are engaging in renewed programmes of expansion which largely stalled in the early years of the recession. However, Cineworld has now questioned its commitment to a major development in Oswestry, leaving the future of the multi-million pound project in doubt.
Led by the UK’s fourth largest supermarket chain Morrisons, the 16 acre site on Shrewsbury Road was supposed to provide a mixture of leisure and restaurant units as a means of enhancing the town’s offering for local consumers. Yet Morrisons this week revealed that “uncertainties” with the cinema operator have triggered a major review of the project, despite the fact that initial groundwork on the site began just a few weeks ago.
One of the major components of the £45 million project, the new livestock market, is already up and running having opened earlier this year. However, the granting of planning consent for a new 60,000 sq ft Aldi store in close proximity to the site has thrown something of a spanner in the works for the next phase of the leisure complex, despite the fact that the local council insisted work on this retail unit can only begin once the five screen cinema has been constructed.
Development executive at Morrison Supermarket PLC, Richard Bakes, insists that the group will do everything in its power to ensure the development remains on track.
He says; “Morrison’s remains committed to the Smithfield Market site having already invested significantly in this development through the relocation of the cattle market to its purpose built facilities and also completing the demolition and site clearance ahead of appointing the main contractor.
“However, following some uncertainties with the cinema operator and the granting of a new food store consent for Aldi we need some time to review the effect this may have on the viability of the project in its current form.”
“We are proposing to work with the local town council and other potential occupiers to explore the various options available, and we expect to be able to make further announcements shortly.”
Along with Cineworld, the project has attracted a high degree of interest from other potential occupiers including Frankie and Benny’s and McDonalds, the latter of which is expected to occupy a two storey unit with a drive-thru window. In total, the complex is forecast to create around 400 new jobs, meaning any issue with the delivery could have negative implications for the local jobs market.
Councillor Peter Cherrington, Mayor of Oswestry, confirmed that the local authority met with Morrisons earlier this month to discuss the future of the development.
He says; “The council is obviously frustrated by the current position regarding the supermarket and leisure development as a legal contract is in place.
“However we are prepared to take part in further discussions with Morrisons to bring forward options for the future development of the site that represents many opportunities for the town and its local employment.”
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