THE developer behind an eagerly awaited cinema complex has reassured residents that the multi-million pound scheme is still going ahead.

Work to create a multiplex cinema and leisure development on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland was scheduled to begin this spring but negotiations and the legal process have taken longer than expected.

However, the development consortium driving forward the scheme has assured people it will only be a short delay, with construction scheduled to begin at Bishop Auckland Retail Park in St Helen Auckland this winter.

It is anticipated the complex will open to public at the end of next year.

A spokesperson for the consortium said: “Although ground breaking had originally been planned for spring this year, the developer is keen to stress that despite the short delay, not only has the cinema operator been in place for well over a year, but additionally a good number of retailers are at the ‘heads of terms’ stage, with full occupation expected in due course.”

There has been talk of creating a cinema in Bishop Auckland for decades. In 2009 a cinema was approved as part of the development, which saw the creation of Sainsbury’s and the new stadium for Bishop Auckland Football Club.

However, a lack of funds led to the multiplex being axed.

But many Bishop Auckland residents remained in favour of the scheme and, in 2014, Durham County Council granted permission for a multi-screen cinema, shops, restaurants and other leisure facilities at the retail park.

Last April, the consortium, which has invested millions of pounds in acquisition costs and development fees, announced legal terms had been agreed with a national cinema operator. It confirmed the majority of the retail spaces had also been filled.

The spokesperson said: “This is the most exciting new build development the area has seen in a very long while,with a desperately needed multi-screen cinema, family friendly restaurants, retail stores, a drive-through and huge amounts of car parking.

“After 30 years of waiting, Bishop Auckland is finally going to get its longed for national cinema chain development.”

The £30m scheme is expected to create hundreds of full and part time jobs, along with considerable local expenditure during the construction phase.

West Auckland County Councillor Rob Yorke said: “Cllr Christine Wilson and I welcome the update from the developer and look forward to work starting on site.

“It has taken us four years to get to this stage, the cinema, restaurant and retail will be a real asset to the town’s ongoing regeneration”

Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman also supports the scheme.

“The people of Bishop Auckland deserve a proper cinema,” she said. “This would improve the quality of life more than anything else I can think of.”