WORK on a highly-anticipated £30m cinema and leisure development for Darlington is set to start in the next few weeks, The Northern Echo can reveal.

The Feethams Leisure development - featuring a multiplex cinema, a hotel and a number of national restaurant chains – is set to transform Darlington town centre and create hundreds of jobs.

After months of planning and work behind the scenes, developer Terrace Hill has announced that funding for the scheme is in place and that building work will begin before the end of the month.

Loading article content

The official start for the scheme has been welcomed by Darlington Borough Council leader Bill Dixon, who said it showed that investors had confidence in the town and its economy.

Up to 150 jobs will be created at the site, with more secured in the construction phase.

A number of national chains have been attracted to the site, including Vue Cinemas, which will operate the nine-screen cinema, and Premier Inn, which will open an 80-bedroom hotel.

Popular restaurant chains, including chicken outlet Nando’s, Italian eateries Bella Italia and Prezzo, and a Greene King pub, operating under its Hungry Horse brand, will open their first branches in Darlington, while Lancashire based Chinese Buffet and Yarm’s Purple Pig will also move to the town.

A 65-week build schedule has been put in place by Terrace Hill, with Feethams Leisure set to be open to the public by Christmas next year.

Terrace Hill is working with the council to arrange access to the former bus station site but Duncan McEwan, director of development at Terrace Hill said he does not forsee any major disruption for the public.

Funding for the £30m scheme had been expected to come from outside investors but a merger between Terrace Hill and fellow developer Urban and Civic this summer raised £120m on the Stock Exchange.

That windfall means Terrace Hill will now build, finance and retain the development for its portfolio instead of handing it over to investors.

Duncan McEwan, development director of Terrace Hill, said: “We are looking forward to getting it started, it has been a long time coming.

“The work behind the scenes for these things always takes quite a long time, especially as there have been a number of changes for our company.

“This is a great addition for Darlington and positive news for everybody.”

Coun Dixon said the news was fantastic for the town and that the development would complement the offer already available in the town centre.

He added: “It shows that the professional investors have got huge faith in Darlington and will invest millions of pounds in the town.

“The jobs that will be created in the leisure industry are great news and will provide a great counterpoint to the hi-tech jobs in the science sector that we’ve recently attracted to the town. It’s important to achieve that balance.”

- See Jobs&Business tomorrow (WEDNESDAY) for an in-depth feature on the team behind the Feetham’s Leisure development.