Ever since plans for a new £10 million Ripon retail park were approved in July last year, there's been plenty of speculation among readers as to which shopping outlets will join M&S and Pets at Home to fill the remaining units.
The developers for the site on the north side of Rotary Way, have confirmed that they are still in discussions with several potential occupiers.
And the latest news is that work is expected to start on the retail park before Christmas this year, and M&S is "still committed" to opening a new store in Ripon.
A spokesperson from Rothstone Estates said: "We are pleased to be able to let local residents know that work is expected to begin on site before Christmas this year.
"Despite the challenging retail market, we are continuing discussions with a number of retailers who want to bring a store to Ripon.
"We would like to reassure residents that M&S are still committed to bringing a store to the site, as Ripon continues to be a desirable location for retailers, and we will update the community as and when we have further developments."
Earlier this year, Rothstone Estates confirmed that they have been in talks with a national fashion retailer, but no further statement has been issued yet.
The Managing Director of Rothstone Estates, Mark Rothery, told the 'Gazette in February: “We have been working with a national fashion retailer and potential future operator of the site to tweak the layout of one of the units to accommodate their requirements. A minor planning application has been submitted to seek approval for these small amendments.
“I would like to thank residents for their patience and support of the project and we hope to make further announcements soon.”
M&S "remain committed" to coming to Ripon
When Marks & Spencer announced plans to close up to 14 stores, Ripon residents wondered what it would mean for the future of the M&S store which is due to come to the city as part of the £10 million retail park plans.
Many residents backed the development on the basis of the plans including an M&S, and concerned readers contacted the 'Gazette fearing that the plug could be pulled.
But developers Rothstone Estates reassured residents that M&S remain committed to moving forward with their plans to open a Ripon branch.
A spokesperson for Rothstone Estates said: “While we are aware that M&S have announced a number of store closures, they remain committed to the forthcoming development at Ripon. Rothstone are currently in discussion with further retailers interested in occupying the other units."
The plans will see a Marks and Spencer return to Ripon nine years after its original store in The Arcade closed, and will create 80 jobs.