Temporary restaurant complex could transform empty sites in Weston-Super-Mare

The disputed site of Dolphin Square is located just east of the pier at Weston-Super-Mare. Credit: Google maps

A newly proposed shipping container complex which includes plans for 7 new restaurants could be Weston-Super-Mare's answer to Bristol's Wapping Wharf, while empty spaces await housing development.

The contentious plot of land at Dolphin Square is the main area awaiting the green light for development. In the meantime it has been used as a temporary car park, which is the subject of local "blights."

The area is earmarked for 220 new homes to be built, but the North Somerset Council are struggling to find a development partner to complete the project.

While Dolphin Square, and several other sites await development, Consultants JLL are advising the Council to install 20 shipping containers.

The other sites include “Station Gateway” at Locking Road, Sunnyside Road, which are allocated for 300 homes and Walliscote Place, the site of the former police station, where 70 homes could be built. 

A report to next week’s full council meeting says: "The visible nature of these sites awaiting development, particularly at Dolphin Square, is seen by many as a blight on the town centre. 

"Increasingly, local authorities and other owners of such sites are looking to temporary uses (known as meanwhile uses) to bring activity and new attractions to sites."

The proposed plans would create space for 7 new independent restaurants in Weston and would resemble Cargo at the Wapping Wharf on Bristol's Harbourside.

The converted shipping containers there turned Bristol’s Harbourside into a culinary destination. Their success can be measured by the owners application to extend their temporary permission by five years in 2021.

Wapping Wharf in Bristol is home to a host of independent eateries and shops in converted shipping containers.

The council report referred to the Wapping Wharf complex, saying "this helps animate the space prior to development, and raises the profile and attractiveness to future residents and investors. 

“Where businesses prosper and grow, there is the potential for them to move into permanent premises nearby. Careful curation and targeted placemaking is key, and a community / neighbourhood focus helps sustain activity throughout the year.” 

JLL said there was a good level of interest, particularly from the food and drink sector, but it would be limited by the relatively short timescale of around five years. 

The housing developments are proving difficult due to a number of logistical and financial reasons.

The council has secured more than £1million to remove a fuel tank at Walliscote Place that had put off investors, while development at Dolphin Square is currently complicated by the presence of a large electrical substation that could cost £2million to move. 

Work on the sites is expected to start by March 2024, but in the meantime, Councillors will consider the suggestions for the temporary restaurant complex on February 15.