The much-awaited Cabot Circus scheme in Bristol opened its doors today.

The£500 million Cabot Circus project brings with it an extra 1 million sq ft (92,900 sq m) of retail and leisure space to Bristol across 140 new stores including anchor spots for department store big-hitters Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser.

The scheme was developed by the Bristol Alliance, a joint venture between Land Securities and Hammerson.

It has been under construction for three years and sits over a 36 acre site in the city centre.

Bristol’s retail offer has lagged in recent years, with investment falling behind other major cities, but now the Bristol Alliance is hoping to turn this around and lift the city into the top ten of retail centres.

The scheme has brought around 75 new retailers to the city centre including Apple, Kurt Geiger, Hugo Boss, Guess, Cruise and Molton Brown.

The opening ceremony began with a circus procession this morning at 11am, followed by an aerial performance display underneath the glass dome of ‘The Circus’ - the scheme’s central open space.

The centre’s shops opened their doors just after noon.

The leader of Bristol City Council, councillor Helen Holland, said: “Cabot Circus delivers our ambition for retail in Bristol. It combines a fantastic innovative design, with the sensitive remodelling of treasured spaces. It all proves that it is possible to boost the economy and make a difference to a major city whilst positively enhancing its character.”