NEW details of a multi-million pound cinema and leisure complex planned for the centre of Darlington have been revealed as developers look to start building work later this summer.
The Feethams Leisure development, on the site of the town’s former bus station, was announced last year and will include a nine screen Vue cinema and an 80-bed Premier Inn hotel.
The Northern Echo can reveal a number of restaurant chains have signed up to the development, including popular chicken restaurant Nando’s, Italian eatery Prezzo and Hungry Horse, a food-based pub chain owned by Greene King.
Also on board is gourmet burger restaurant Purple Pig, which was founded in Yarm, and Chinese Buffet, which will open its first outlet in the North East after finding success in West Yorkshire and Lancashire.
The leases on two other units have been agreed with unnamed operators, although not yet officially signed, while a final unit overlooking the River Skerne is still available.
It is hoped that the leisure complex, which also includes an underground car park and outdoor terraces, will revitalise Darlington’s town centre economy, in particular in the evenings.
Duncan McEwan, head of retail and leisure development at Terrace Hill, the company behind the scheme, said the £30m development would be made available to investors in the coming weeks and, once finance is in place, building work will begin in late summer.
Mr McEwan said the scheme was running slightly behind schedule, but should open to the public in spring 2016.
He acknowledged a level of scepticism among people in Darlington about whether the development would happen and added: “I know all about impatience – I’ve got two teenage daughters who are constantly asking me when the cinema is going to arrive.
“Property development is like climbing a mountain, you have to go up and down a lot of foothills before you get to the mountain itself. Where we are now, I’d say we’re at Everest basecamp, it’s the final stage before the building happens.
“Something like this development, which has a lot of elements does take time – you have to get through planning, get all the operators to sign up and find funding.”
Mr McEwan said five or six investors have shown interest in the £30m portfolio ahead of negotiations in May.
John Anderson, Darlington Borough Council’s assistant director for regeneration, said the authority was delighted with the package put together by Terrace Hill.
He added: “This meets the brief that we put out to tender. We set out quite specifically what we wanted to see here - a cinema, a hotel and we also wanted it to be an integral part of the town centre.
“This is the start of our ambitions to revitalise the town centre and kickstart other projects.”