WARRINGTON has been urged to embrace the £142.5 million Time Square scheme – and residents have been told ‘a number of’ restaurant operators could be signed up by Christmas.

The Botanist remains the only restaurant the council has snapped up for its flagship town centre regeneration scheme.

But, despite being just months away from opening, Town Hall chiefs are not ‘overly concerned’ by the situation.

Steve Park, the council’s director of economic growth, said: “Landing The Botanist was a statement of intent for the scheme and sets both the ambition and the standard that we are aiming for, in terms of quality restaurant operators.

“We are having many ongoing, positive discussions with potential restaurant operators which match the ambitions for the scheme.

“A number of deals are expected to be either completed, or close to being completed, between now and Christmas.”

Time Square will feature a Cineworld multiplex cinema, permanent market hall, council offices and a public square after completion.

And the Labour-run authority says it will be opened in phases.

The Warrington Guardian understands both The Botanist and Cineworld could open before Christmas – with the council offices and the new market expected to be opened in the first quarter of 2020.

Mr Park confirmed, during the transition from the temporary market to the opening of the new market, the number of days the market will be closed for will be ‘minimal’.

He also hailed the council’s vision for the market.

“The local authority sees the market as a civic asset of the town – it is part of the town’s heritage,” he said.

“The food court and street food offer has helped the market succeed – that is key to the future of markets.

“We have also offered concessions for people parking in Time Square car park, if their ticket is validated in the market, which boosts footfall at the site.”

Time Square is currently priced at £142.5 million – which officers say reflects its increased scale – but Mr Park is confident there will be no further cost increases.

Furthermore, the council has again insisted it is unable to say how much the budget for the council offices totals.

It says that is because work taking place at the site is being carried out as one major development by the contractor, rather than each building separately.

Cllr Bob Barr, leader of the town’s Liberal Democrats, is among those keeping a close eye on the development in the heart of the borough.

He believes the importance of the success of Time Square for Warrington ‘cannot be overstated’.

“The future vitality of the town depends on it,” he added.

“Four things will determine the footfall – the market, the council offices, the cinema and the leisure, retail and restaurant offerings.

“Now is the time to explain, and market, the available opportunities, not to nit-pick about slow take up or cost.

“The cost of the council office fit-out is less important than what it will offer.

“New public meeting spaces can bring in an income, better offices provide savings elsewhere and the foot traffic generated will help regenerate the town centre.

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“The town needs to enthusiastically embrace the new start that Time Square offers.”