EMPTY units in Barons Quay have cost taxpayers more than a quarter of a million pounds in 2017, the Guardian can reveal.

Currently, only Asda, Odeon and Wildwood are present in the £80 million development – which was funded by Cheshire West and Chester Council – while 28 units remain vacant.

A Freedom of Information request to CWAC by the Guardian reveals that from January 2017, the council has paid out £27,575.28 a month in ‘service costs’ related to Barons Quay, bringing the total cost to £248,177, including September.

In addition, the council has paid a total of £3,929 in insurance payments from January to August 2017.

The council said rental income from the existing tenants exceeds the ‘void costs’ related to the empty units.

Cllr Brian Clarke, CWAC cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, said: “Construction work at Barons Quay will soon be complete and we are actively discussing opportunities with interested occupiers.

“We remain confident that our £80 million investment in Barons Quay will provide returns over its life in line with our original expectations.

“The new arrivals of Odeon, Asda and Wildwood make Barons Quay an attractive destination and monthly footfall figures in Northwich exceeded 300,000 for the first time in April 2017.

“Northwich is proving to be a town on the up with a boom in housing and a growing population. More than 7,500 new houses will be built in the Northwich and Winsford area by 2020.

“The council’s investment in both Barons Quay and Weaver Square Shopping Centre is part of our wider ambitions to re-model the town centre.

“We want the people of Northwich to get behind this fantastic town and be positive about its future to help drive investment and make the most of its success.”

Cllr Sam Naylor, CWAC ward member for Winnington and Castle, assured residents the council is ‘working hard’ to deliver the project.

The Labour councillor said: “It has always been my concern in regards to the council funding Barons Quay rather than a developer because in effect it is taxpayers that is footing the bill.

“That is why I am determined to make Barons Quay a success.”

Cllr Naylor added: “We’ve got to be positive, if everyone’s negative then it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you say it’s a failure it will become a failure.”

Last October Starbucks told the Guardian it planned to open in Barons Quay by spring 2017 and then later said summer 2017 – although there are no signs of this happening. Since then there have been no fresh announcements.

Cllr Gaynor Sinar, CWAC ward member for Davenham and Moulton, and chairman of Northwich BID, said the cost of fitting the units is off-putting for smaller, independent businesses.

The Conservative councillor also said more incentives need to be given to lure in new tenants.

Cllr Sinar, who owns Curtain Magic in High Street, said: “When people move into a new home they are offered incentives.

“It might be carpets or help with the legal fees or a couple of months’ mortgage paid.

“What incentives are people being offered to move to the development? I haven’t heard of any.”