DEVELOPERS who have completed a multi-million pound deal to buy a shopping centre hope to open a new cinema and student accommodation on the site.

London-based property company Clearbell Capital today (July 8) confirmed it has bought The Gates shopping centre, in Durham for £11.85m.

The new owners say it is too early to reveal precise plans, they have long-term ambitions to open 30,000 sq ft of new restaurants in the riverside complex, anchored by what they claim will be the area’s largest multi-screen cinema.

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They also plan to create accommodation for up to 300 students integrated into the existing city centre site overlooking the River Wear between Framwelgate Bridge and Millburngate Bridge.

Nick Berry, partner at Clearbell, said: “The Gates is very well located and we see plenty of scope to enhance the shopping centre as it stands.

“We also think there is substantially more we can do to improve the offering to the local area, with new riverside restaurants and a cinema complex”.

At present, the city’s only cinema is in the council-run Gala Theatre, following the closure of the privately-owned Robins Cinema in 2003.

The Gates opened as the Millburngate Shopping Centre in the 1980s, but increasingly struggled in the face of competition from out-of-town retails parks as well as newer city centre rivals The Prince Bishops Shopping Centre and Walkergate leisure development.

The mall’s flagship Waitrose store closed in 2008, eventually replaced by discount retailer Wilkinsons, and the centre itself went into administration late in 2012.

Despite its difficulties the 130,000 sq ft shopping mall, which is close to the town’s North Road bus station, still records a footfall of 3.5m visitors each year and is home to 49 retail units, a 473-space car parking and six residential properties.