LEGAL terms have been agreed on a new seven-screen cinema paving the go-ahead for a long-awaited leisure and retail complex on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland.

The developer behind the Bishop Auckland Cinema, Leisure and Retail Park said this news, together with nearly all units being snapped up, means work will begin next spring.

Once construction gets underway it is expected to take 12 months.

There have been a number of delays but vital groundwork tests have now taken place in preparation for workmen moving on site.

Durham County Council’s planning committee granted permission for the cinema, shops, restaurants and other leisure facilities in 2014.

Chris Dacre, on behalf of the developers, said: The developers of the Bishop Auckland Cinema, Leisure and Retail Park are continuing to make good progress attracting new retail and leisure occupiers for the scheme.

“In particular, solicitors have agreed terms with a national cinema operator for a seven-screen facility.

“This has also generated positive interest from other exciting leisure operators, whom developers are confident will provide a unique experience for the people of Bishop Auckland and the surrounding area.”

The news comes as the nearby Premier Inn, on West Auckland Road, Tindale Crescent, recently completed an extension to its hotel.

The company, owned by Whitbread, added 21 new bedrooms in a three-storey extension, to make a 60 room hotel.

Operations manager Shirley Hocking said: “We always seem to be busy and we can really tell when there are events on in the area.

“It will be great when work starts on the (cinema) site.”

Durham County Councillor for West Auckland, Rob Yorke, said with cinema development and Premier Inn extension, plus the shopping parks nearby, the area has received a real boost in recent years.

He added that the eagerly-anticipated Kynren shows, and the redevelopment of Auckland Castle and the Market Place, Bishop Auckland has really exciting prospects.

“It is brilliant news about the cinema complex,” he said. “With all the other stuff going on in the town now we are starting to notice everything is coming together.

“Once the cinema site gets underway I think we will see even more big names want to come to area, which in turn will mean we attract more people.”