Work is set to start next year on a long-delayed £30 million leisure and retail project expected to transform Stratford town centre.

The news follows the purchase this week of Stratford Town Square by London-based property development and investment company UK & European.

The project will comprise 50,000 sq ft retail space to include a cinema, restaurants, about 30 new shops and leisure facilities.

It will also create a pedestrian link between Rother Market, High Street and Wood Street.

It has been beset by legal problems and delays with work due to start in summer 2013 after receiving planning permission in 2012 while talks with site owners as far back as 2007 showed signs that it could be moving when the project was included in changes to a new 'Urban Design Framework' for the Warwickshire town.

Jane Jeffery, acquisitions director at UK & European, said: "Our aim is to create a new high-quality shopping and leisure destination in Stratford town centre that attracts people both living in and visiting the area, by bringing a renewed vibrancy to the site.

"We expect work to start on the site next year and are already in talks with a number of retailers and restaurant operators who are interested in occupying some of the available units at Stratford Town Square.

"We are very much looking forward to working with Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Stratford Town Trust over the coming months in the delivery of this exciting new retail and leisure project."

UK & European, acting as investment manager, now own the lease to Stratford Town Square. Two thirds of the site is owned by the council and the remainder by Stratford Town Trust.

UK & European purchased the site from London & Regional Properties. Knight Frank acted on behalf of UK & European.

Helen Munro, chief executive of Stratford Town Trust, said: "As one of the freeholders it is important to the Town Trust that this site is developed for the benefit of the town and its people.

"Town Square has been tired and in desperate need of rejuvenation for some time and we are delighted that this opportunity has come to fruition following 15 months of very difficult negotiations. The lease is now in the hands of an organisation with a genuine commitment to Stratford."