I am so impressed by the progress at the St James development – which is being fitted out ahead of opening in a matter of months.
I was shown around the Cineworld complex, which is having seats and carpets fitted and has been given an opening date of February 2, 2018. The anchor shops – Marks & Spencer and Next – will be furnished after Christmas and open in a few months' time, with the latter to include a mezzanine Costa Coffee café.
These really are exciting times. We are so close to getting a first class retail experience in the heart of Dover. Some of the units are ready to go now. I was amazed with the progress. We must never forget that barely two years ago this area was blighted by the awful multi-storey car park and Burlington House.
St James is going to massively improve things in Dover – yet we need our high street to flourish too. Everyone wants the entire Dover town centre to succeed. Making sure the St James development draws more visitors to our high street is our top priority. We also need to make more of our tourist attractions like the Roman Painted House. I met with Dr Brian Philp, who runs the Roman Painted House, last month to discuss what can be done to help boost tourism.
On Friday, I also met with Dover District Council's head of investment Tim Ingleton, chief executive Nadeem Aziz and Townwall Street leisure centre owners Citycourt for a site meeting. Citycourt are working on plans to use the leisure centre site for more parking and retail provision. It would be great to see more parking with a retailer alongside, to deliver more shopping options to the people of Dover and visitors to our town.
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