THE massive multi-million pound task of rebuilding the Castlepoint car park will not begin until next year, it has been confirmed.

The work was due to start this year but has been put back until 2016 so as not to disrupt the vital Christmas trading period.

A spokesperson for the Castlepoint Partnership said: "Given the general complexity of the project and the need to ensure our retailers enjoy an uninterrupted Christmas trading period, preparations are taking longer than expected.

"As a result we have revised the programme and delayed the start of the rebuild until early next year.”

The rebuild has planning permission from Bournemouth Borough Council and some preparatory work has already taken place in the void spaces underneath some of the shop units.

These will be opened up to create extra parking spaces while the car park is being rebuilt, section by section.

The actual demolition and rebuild, which will now start next year, will be done in five phases, starting at Sainsbury's and working along the two malls.

The anchor stores - Sainsbury's, Asda, M&S and B&Q - will not need to close but smaller shop units will each close for five days on a rolling basis as the walkways outside their entrances are rebuilt.

If Kier begins work as scheduled next year, that will be 13 years after the problems of Castlepoint's car park first came to light in 2003. Reports of falling concrete led to spaces being cordoned off and in December 2005, the car park had to be closed completely because of cracks appearing in the concrete floor and columns.

It fully re-opened a month later with a temporary fix in place and the best part of a decade was then spent negotiating a permanent solution.

The rebuilding of the car park will also include aesthetic improvements, with shoppers promised the end result will be a brighter, better-looking car park.

Cllr Anne Rey, Independent member for the adjoining ward of Throop and Muscliff, opened Castlepoint when she was Mayor in 2003. She said: "The saga has been going on for so long that quite honestly a few months extra is not going to make much difference.

"As long as the place is safe and can remain open, that's what is important. Christmas is such a busy time for Castlepoint that I can see why they would want to get that out of the way before beginning on major building work."