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Council leader: I'm not sorry about Wolverhampton Westside delays

By Dayna Farrington | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

Wolverhampton Council's leader said he makes "no apologies" for the delay in the Westside project – adding that the authority "can't afford to get this wrong".

An artist's impression showing how the Westside development could look

In October it was revealed that a multi-million pound deal for a giant cinema in the city's Westside project had been delayed by red tape.

Negotiations initially concluded at the start of September, with the identity of the cinema chain taking over the site expected to be revealed that month. But the contract has still yet to be signed.

The cinema is seen as the most crucial element of the £50 million Westside development, which will take up land running from the Penn Road Island to Salop Street in the city centre.

Leader Ian Brookfield gave the latest update on the project at the authority's full council meeting on Wednesday evening, after a question from opposition leader Councillor Wendy Thompson.

During the meeting, Councillor Thompson asked: "Given the latest setback to the Westside project due to legal issues, can you explain what they are and when this vital project will finally get underway as we would all wish?"

But in response, Councillor Brookfield told the meeting that they are close to signing the contract – either this side of Christmas, or very early on the other side.

He added that the authority had received a new offer in the last week – which had been a "major saving".

As well as a cinema, Westside will also feature mini golf, 10-pin bowling, a multi-storey car park and restaurants.

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Councillor Brookfield said: "At the end of the day, this is a huge development – tens of million pounds in our city centre.

"Now, of course, I would like it done by tomorrow, we would all like it done by tomorrow, next week.

"It is of vital importance. When I say complex legal issues, we are talking about at the very top level.

"We have got a very good relationship with Urban and Civic – and the extra weeks that it has taken, because of this legal work, has allowed us to work with them, always looking for value, always looking for ways savings can be made, but without damaging the quality of the whole package.

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"I am pleased to announce, that in the last week, there has been a new offer which is a major saving. So it has actually helped us.

"I like everyone want to see that anchor tenant, we know it is a cinema chain. The cinema chain are ready to go and as soon as that is in place, then the associated retail units, restaurants, leisure then sign up as well.

"I make no apologies that it is a few months later than perhaps what even I said, I make no apologies. We can't afford to get this wrong – I would much rather take that little bit of extra time and get it right, than be standing here in a year's time and saying 'Oops, I'm awfully sorry'.

"Lets be patient. We are getting close to signing, hopefully this side of Christmas or very early on the other side of Christmas. It will start then, Urban and Civic's role is to get it up, get the package together and then start building."

He added: "I am happy to reiterate the dates I have said. Yes, that extra bit of time we are taking has already been financially worthwhile.

"It will be worthwhile for us as public money is going into it. But the dates I have given, I am more than happy. But I'm not unhappy to come here and tell you if something does go wrong, I am not going to hide it. If there's a month or two delay, I will tell people."

Dayna Farrington

By Dayna Farrington
Senior reporter based at Wolverhampton

Reporter for the Express & Star based at Wolverhampton.

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