DEVELOPERS behind plans for a multi-million pound leisure complex for Darlington have reaffirmed their belief in the project following public scepticism.

A planning application was submitted last week for the Feethams Leisure scheme, on the site of a former bus depot, in the town.

Proposals for the 130,000sq ft development include a nine-screen Vue cinema and 80-bedroom Premier Inn, as well as bars and restaurants.

Although the plans have been widely welcomed, some residents have adopted a ‘believe it when I see it’ attitude, after similar schemes failed to reach fruition.

The proposed Oval development, which would have been built on the site of Commercial Street car park, fell by the wayside as a result of the credit crunch.

Terrace Hill, the company chosen by Darlington Borough Council to deliver the development, said it had already committed ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ to the project.

Duncan McEwan, head of retail and leisure development for Terrace Hill, said: “We would not be spending the money we are on the planning application if we thought it was never going to happen.

“We are already in for a good few hundred thousand pounds and would not have done that if we did not think it would be successful.”

Terrace Hill has a track record of successful developments, including retail schemes in Bishop Auckland, Sedgefield and Sunderland.

Mr McEwan said the company was ‘as confident as we can be’ that the proposals would be approved.

The council’s planning committee is expected to consider the application in January and Mr McEwan believes the projected opening date of summer 2015 is achievable.

He added: “I would hope that the council, having chosen our bid, will approve the design we came up with.

“We would be slightly disappointed if the council, with its planning hat on, found any defect in what we have proposed.”

The design of the development has been altered since the early consultation stage, with the ‘green box’ that featured in initial drawings now omitted.

Mr McEwan added that the tweaked design would link better with the proposed Department for Education office building, which is due to be built on adjacent site at the back of Darlington town hall.

Source: The Northern Echo

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