ANSWERS are being demanded over the future of Regent Circus.

The £50m shopping and entertainment complex – which only opened in 2015 – has been hit by high-profile closures in recent months.

Morrisons shut up shop in November, Coal Grill and Bar followed suit just after the turn of the year and rumours have swirled over the plight of Cineworld, although the latter confirmed it will not be closing.

Now Swindonians are asking the site owners: "What's the plan?"

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Labour councillor Imtiyaz Shaikh said: “The intention for it was to be a main attraction.

“It was supposed to raise the reputation of Swindon and make it level with places like Bristol.

“Morrisons going was a big disappointment and serious questions need to be asked."

Now owned by UK Commercial Property, the complex was built five years ago by Ashfield Land.

Restaurants Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Coal Grill and Bar, Ask Italian, Prezzo and Nando's, as well as Cineworld and Morrisons, formed the original line-up. Tiffins filled one of the two vacant units in 2017 but the tandoori restaurant closed last year.

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Coun Shaikh believes the way forward is to make the complex more appealing to families and young adults.

He added: “Now Morrisons is gone, something needs to come in that is something for the family and for the youth.

“A good example could be a bowling alley, it would definitely attract more people to the area.

“I’m quite disappointed, there needs to be more family entertainment.

He added: "What is the plan?"

“Big franchises don’t always work,” added Coun Shaikh. “They should bring in smaller ones, involve more local businesses.

“They need to act quickly. What else will go? I don’t know.

“Someone needs to come up with a plan as soon as possible.”

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His fellow Eastcott councillor Paul Dixon added: “It’s not going very well at all.

“Questions need to be asked if it is actually a success. Hopefully no more outlets close. If the cinema went then it would be a disaster.

“There needs to be a new approach to how the town centre is developed and this site needs to be included in any approach.”

Coun Dixon added that the council and private sector needs to find a solution together.

“The supermarket didn’t work,” he added: “We need to look at how it could work, the private sector must want investment because they can’t have it empty either.

“There must be a solution. They need to get together and find one.”

Holly Lenik from Old Town lamented Morrisons' decision to close.

She said: “It used to be great but we’re not down here as much anymore.

“We really miss Morrisons, it was easy with my daughter to just pop in there to do a quick shop or visit their cafe as well.

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“It needs some more independent restaurants. Because we live in Old Town we have a lot of those so we tend to stay up there now.”

There was better news for Regent Circus this week as independent Lebanese restaurant Lamaya Kitchen and Bar confirmed it will be opening in February.

UK Commercial Property has been approached for comment by the Adver but has yet to respond.

'It's had a positive impact on town'

Despite recent closures at Regent Circus, inSwindon BID believes the complex has been an asset for the town since it opened in 2015.

CEO Di Powell said: “It has a positive impaction on Swindon town centre and is the right concept for the town and our visitors.

“Town centres and high streets across the UK are facing challenging times, and Swindon is no different where sadly we have lost some businesses, more recently in Regent Circus.

“We want people to see the town centre as a destination for shopping and leisure with a cultural hub.

“Regent Circus was built with this concept in mind and as a BID we’re committed to working with the owners to support finding the right businesses to fill these units.

“Regent Circus is doing what they can to help their tenants with their most recent initiative, offering free parking to anyone who eats at one of the restaurants.

“It’s an investment that, as a community, we all need to strive for together to support our town centre businesses.”

Restaurant's fears over closures

A supervisor at Prezzo insisted the restaurant's Regent Circus outlet is not struggling – but admits the number of closures is a worry.

Speaking to the Adver, Vanessa Martins said: “People still come here.

“The environment is nice, the food is quick and it tastes good but with Morrisons and the rest closed then people might think they won’t come here.

“The good restaurants are still open, as well as the cinema.

“In general, its a nice place to be but if more could open up then that would be much better.”