THE race to build a new cinema-led leisure complex

THE race to build a new cinema-led leisure complex in Bournemouth town centre has taken an unexpected twist – with cinema giant Odeon switching allegiance.

Odeon, the largest cinema group in Europe, appears to have pulled out of the Pavilion Gardens development planned for the Bath Road North car park.

Instead it has signed a pre-let agreement with the rival West Central scheme, planned for the NCP car park in Exeter Road.

Their defection is a massive boost for the £50million West Central scheme and comes at a crucial time when Bournemouth council is attempting to scupper the project so it can build a temporary bus hub on the site.

Developers Licet have also announced they now have funding for their scheme from Legal and General Property and have revealed that Nando’s, Ask Italian, Chiquitos, Coast to Coast, Frankie & Benny’s, Prezzo and TGI Fridays are all confirmed for the development.

Chris Dymond, director of Licet Holdings, said: “Odeon is at the forefront of cinema and we are delighted that the formal agreement has been signed, as are the leading restaurant operators for whom we’ve always been the preferred choice, with the initial letting phase of 12 units fully secured.

“With the funding in place, this is the final piece of the jigsaw for West Central to bring a fantastic new attraction and experience right into the very centre of Bournemouth for locals and visitors to enjoy year round.”

The scheme has been repeatedly delayed because of the economic downturn and the subsequent wrangles with Bournemouth council but work is now set to start in the New Year.

The build will take around 18 months and the development is expected to create around 500 jobs once open.

The Odeon cinema will be the focal attraction, with 10 fully digital screens and nearly 2,000 seats, while the restaurants will overlook the award-winning Lower Gardens.

Ken Taylor, property director of Odeon and UCI Group, said: “We are thrilled with the opportunity to open a new Odeon cinema in Bournemouth as part of the West Central development.

“It’s a fantastic location and we’re looking forward to bringing the very latest in state-of-the-art cinema experiences to this exciting and contemporary destination, with work set to start in the coming months.”

When pressed on why they preferred the West Central development, they would only say it was a “more suitable location.”

Mr Dymond said the agreement struck with Legal and General proved their scheme was viable. “Securing Legal and General Property as our funding partner underlines the quality of West Central as only the very best leisure assets in the country meet its purchase criteria,” he said.

“LGP is one of the largest investors in this sector and the perfect partner for us as they have an established relationship with the council and are keen to help develop Bournemouth’s position as the leading destination on the south coast.”

Bournemouth Council

Bournemouth Borough Council Leader, Councillor John Beesley, said they “remained convinced” that the NCP car park site would be best used as a bus hub.

““The existing bus pick-up and drop-off in Gervis Place is congested and struggles to cope with existing numbers of buses and passengers. This demand is likely to rise as we encourage residents and visitors to use more sustainable forms of transport,” he said.

“The current NCP site at Exeter Road has been identified as the most suitable location for a much-needed bus hub in Bournemouth.

"A feasibility study by planning consultants, Terence O'Rourke, has concluded that this proposal is viable, affordable and will provide sufficient additional capacity to meet existing and future demand.

"These finding were endorsed by the council's cabinet on June 26, which authorised the use of compulsory purchase powers in support of this scheme. We are currently pressing ahead with detailed design work.

“I can understand why Licet Holdings Ltd is disappointed by the council's decision and not unsurprisingly it is seeking to persuade both the council and the wider public of the economic benefits of its scheme, which would be a boost to the town's economy.

“However, there are at least two alternative sites that could provide a new multiplex cinema, so these economic benefits will not be lost. On the flip side, Bournemouth's economy will undoubtedly suffer if we fail to solve congestion issues in the Town Centre.

“The council remains convinced that a new bus hub on the NCP car park site is the most appropriate use of the site in terms of the benefit to the wider community of Bournemouth.”

Bournemouth Echo

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