Blow for Waterlooville as cinema plan put in doubt

The original plans for the BAE site in Waterlooville
The original plans for the BAE site in Waterlooville

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HOPES for a cinema and bowling alley to boost a town’s leisure facilities have suffered a major setback.

Fresh plans have been submitted to transform the former BAE site, off Hambledon Road, Waterlooville, but there is no guarantee the development will include any entertainment businesses.

The agent for the developer, Hargreaves, says it has extensively marketed the site for a cinema and bowling alley, but there have been no takers.

Waterlooville and Havant are desperate for more attractions, particularly following the closure of AMF Bowling at Bedhampton last year.

Plans to redevelop the 12-acre site with facilities including a bowling alley, gym and cinema were withdrawn earlier this year.

The new plan is asking Havant Borough Council for permission to build a new road through the park from the existing access point at the Elettra Avenue and Waterberry Drive roundabout to Silverthorne Way.

The designs indicate a Lidl supermarket and a McDonald’s drive-through.

Two other buildings could be a hotel or restaurant, while the largest unit – the only building left on the sprawling site – is undecided as to its use and the plans indicate a flexible approach is needed.

David Crichton, chairman of Waterlooville Community Forum, said: ‘There’s considerable concern at the moment over the intentions of the developer.

‘The new planning application does not make anything any clearer.

‘It’s not ruling anything out. But the comments in there are slightly worrying, since they imply some of the leisure elements, the cinema, the bowling alley and even the hotel, they may be having difficulty with.

‘We will oppose any attempt for a change of use, be it industrial or commercial.’

A report from the developer states: ‘Developer and its agents have been very active within the leisure market to investigate potential occupiers. Marketing to date has primarily focused on cinema operators, as they act as an anchor and catalyst for other leisure operators and – without a cinema – it is very difficult to attract other leisure-orientated businesses. To date, however, the search for a suitable cinema occupier has been unsuccessful.’

Councillor hopeful leisure offers will come

THE leader of regeneration for Havant’s council is more optimistic that the area would get the leisure facilities it needs.

Councillor David Guest said the new road through the site was the first step and the area would become more attractive to leisure operators as the west of Waterlooville estate grows.

He said: ‘There are no plans at the moment for particular forms of leisure.

‘But we are very much hoping this will evolve because the site will be more attractive for leisure as the population grows.

‘We can’t predict that and we can’t make the market come to the door.’

A report predicts the development could generate up to 682 car trips a day.