A LONG-awaited £25m leisure and retail development in Catterick Garrison took a leap forward today as contractors moved onto the site.

The 150,000sq ft town centre scheme will transform a former sports ground on Gough Road and, once completed, will include major retail units; a seven-screen cinema; cafés, restaurants and bars; and a 60-bed hotel with 350 car parking spaces.

The venture is expected to create a major boost for the local economy, with more than 700 jobs for local people and public spending kept in the district rather than at shopping and leisure parks further afield.

Kier Property director Tom Gilman and Lingfield Securities chief executive Jonathan Hart, whose companies have come together to create Lingfield (Catterick) Ltd, which will build the site, joined Catterick Garrison Commander Colonel Stephen Padget and Mick Griffiths, deputy leader of Richmondshire District Council, to cut the first turf.

Contracts have already been exchanged on more than 60 per cent of the retail space available with several well-known high street brands, including Next, Brantano and Cotswold, as well as food and drink operators Greene King and KFC.

Mr Gilman said: “We are delighted to be working with Lingfield on this exciting retail and leisure development, which will bring a new era of entertainment and shopping facilities to Catterick Garrison and act as a vital hub, breathing life into the community.”

"The new town centre will reduce the need for long and expensive journeys to shopping centres outside the district.

“And as part of the proposals, Richmond Road and its junction with Gough Road will be substantially upgraded.”

Col Padgett said the sod cutting ceremony was a significant milestone in the development of the garrison.

He said: “This project has been an aspiration for years but it’s taken a great deal of work by many different groups and individuals.

“It’s wonderful now that we’ll start to see this tremendous development grow out of the ground before us.”

“Once complete, the new town centre will enhance the garrison significantly. It will transform the amenities that can be enjoyed and shared, not just by soldiers and their families, but by all residents and visitors to the area.”

Mr Hart added: “We have taken great care to engage with the local community and the district-wide population during the design stage to ensure the delivery of an enduring and sustainable legacy.”

"These are exciting times as the government has recently announced Catterick Garrison as one of five Super Garrisons in the UK for the future of the Armed Forces and their families."