Published: 11:52, 26 February 2021
| Updated: 16:17, 26 February 2021
Two national chains are no longer a part of a town's regeneration project, it has been confirmed.
Pizza Express and dessert chain Creams were set to open in Sittingbourne's new Bourne Place leisure quarter as part of the multi-million pound regeneration of the town centre.
But it has now been confirmed both eateries will not be coming to the town.
The news follows an update on the town centre scheme given at Swale council's Scrutiny Committee meeting last night.
At the meeting, it was revealed that the new eight-screen cinema and bowling alley complex has now been completely fitted out.
Speaking today, Cllr Roger Truelove (Lab), leader of the council, said: "The new cinema and bowling alley are fitted out and they look great. I really hope we will soon see people enjoying these assets.
"So, we have a multi-screen cinema, a bowling alley and Nando’s with the remaining units likely to be let in due course."
He added: "We knew Pizza Express and Creams were not going to be part of the project some time ago. It is well-known that Pizza Express are cutting back and we needed the space for the bowling alley.
"In the end, this leisure area will offer a greater variety of opportunities than the original plan of a cinema and restaurants."
Back in August last year, Pizza Express announced its plans to shed around 1,100 jobs nationally by closing a number of its branches - but it would not comment on how this affected the proposed opening at the Sittingbourne site.
As well as The Light cinema and bowling alley complex, the pizza chain and Creams were set to join other restaurants including Nando's and the Sentado Lounge, and a Travelodge hotel in the town's new leisure quarter.
An update, discussed at last night's meeting, said The Light's fit-out was completed just before Christmas – but it is not yet known when the complex is expected to open.
It was revealed that Nando's was in the process of submitting a planning application for slight changes to the front of its unit including the introduction of a hatch for takeaways and deliveries.
Meanwhile, Travelodge has continued to trade throughout the lockdown periods, while work is continuing to fill the vacant units "in a challenging market" caused by the Covid-19 crisis. There is "current interest" in unit one, which is "being explored".
Pizza Express and Creams are not the first chains to do a u-turn on their plans for a Sittingbourne branch.
At the end of 2018, restaurant chain Wildwood withdrew from the town’s regeneration scheme.
At the time, a Spirit of Sittingbourne spokesman said: “Over recent months, Wildwood has experienced trading difficulties leading to it withdrawing from a number of future openings."
The Sentado Lounge café bar, which is underneath the 63-bed Travelodge hotel, was the first eatery in the new leisure quarter to open its doors in October last year.