Planning permission for the £11million expansion runs out next year but developers are ‘encouraged’ by new shop openings.

The red outline shows the area where permission has been granted for the extension.The red outline shows the area where permission has been granted for the extension.

DEVELOPERS planning an £11million expansion for Atlantic Village in Bideford have said they are ‘encouraged’ by new additions to the centre.

Plans for the extension – which were passed in 2012 and will become extant next year if no work has begun – could go ahead during the next year, a spokesman confirmed.

The news comes as Suits You, a new men’s retail outlet, opened in an empty shop on Wednesday and earlier this year a large Poundland store took over several units.

The development is a far cry from that of two years ago, when the Gazette reported how shop closures in the centre had left it looking half-empty with five vacant units.

Jane McLeod, centre manager for Atlantic Village, said: “I think we have come out of the difficult times now and things are looking more positive.

“Our confidence is growing and we’re seeing an upturn in the way people are shopping.

“Although nothing has happened with the Atlantic Park development across the road yet I think it is fantastic news for the town and local economy.

“Hopefully retailers will see that Bideford is growing and it will draw people in.”

Plans for a 5,405sq m retail sales area, set to almost double the size of Atlantic Village, were approved by Torridge District Council in October 2011.

The final go-ahead was only given in August 2012 following the agreement of a package of financial proposals to support the town centre and public transport links.

But in November 2012, the Gazette reported how work was halted after a survey indicated the presence of dormice on the site, which had to be relocated.

A spokesman for Drake Bideford Ltd said the developers did plan to proceed and that mitigation had been agreed regarding the dormice.

She added: “The market is in a phase of recovery which should enable us to get on during the next year – and we are encouraged by recent new additions to the mall.”