AN eagerly-anticipated multi-million pound cinema complex is in the final stages of being approved.

Work to create a multiplex cinema and leisure development on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland was scheduled to begin this spring but it was set back again.

Now the development consortium driving forward the scheme has welcomed the latest decision by Durham County Council planning officers, who have recommended the reserved matters be approved with conditions.

Matters relate to the access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale of the development at Bishop Auckland Retail Park, in St Helen Auckland, and need to be rubber stamped by the council’s cabinet members, who are set to consider it on September 12.

There has been talk of creating a cinema in Bishop Auckland for decades. In 2009 a cinema was approved as part of the development but a lack of funds led to the multiplex being axed.

Despite this, many residents remained in favour of the scheme and, in 2014, the 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.

Craig Kipling, director of Create Architecture, the company working alongside the developers, said: “We are proud to be working on this project and see the recent approval of reserved matters as a very positive step towards our client delivering this very exciting development for the Town of Bishop Auckland.”

West Auckland County Councillor Rob Yorke said: “I spoke to the developer last week and everything is in place, he said. All the retail and leisure units have been sold.”

Cllr Yorke said the development work on the £33m project should get underway in early 2019.

“It’s been a long time coming and hopefully we are nearly there now if it’s passed in September,” he added. “If we can get the scheme off the ground, it’s going to create hundreds of jobs and even more development in the area.”

Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman also said she was delighted to hear the latest update.

She said: “I’m delighted to hear that these plans are going ahead and that we’ll finally be getting the cinema Bishop Auckland deserves. I’m looking forward to settling down with some popcorn when it opens.”