RESTAURANTS, a bowling alley, cinema and hotel have all been given the go-ahead in what is seen as a huge boost for Waterlooville.
The leisure complex, on the former BAE Systems site off Hambledon Road, will also include a gym, a pub, a drive-through restaurant and the discount food store Aldi.
Last night’s development management committee at Havant Borough Council unanimously agreed to the plans by Bridgehouse Limited despite a last-minute move to block it by another discount store, Lidl.
The company objected strongly to Aldi going in, saying it would have a major impact on its shop in London Road, Cowplain and a nearby Co-op less than a mile away.
But planning officer Aaron Wright said there was evidence Lidl was overtrading by 40 per cent and it could easily absorb any loss.
Mrs Wright added that the new complex would create almost 300 new jobs.
Councillor Cyril Hilton, who represents Stakes Ward, said: ‘A lot of people complain that too many houses are being built on the West of Waterlooville development.
‘But if they were not being built I don’t think this complex would be built. I’m very pleased with it.
‘And a lot of people complain that there is nothing to do in Waterlooville. A cinema is needed. This bowling complex will replace the one in Bedhampton. And I presume the restaurants will be a very high standard.’
The site is largely vacant and BAE Systems has the option to renew the lease on its office block – where the cinema and gym will be built – and this caused concern for Councillor Paul Buckley.
He was also worried about the impact on the town centre.
‘We’ve already moved the centre point of the town west and north,’ said Cllr Buckley.
‘The businesses in the town centre are being squeezed with high rents and high business rates.
‘At times you can walk through the town centre and it’s a ghost town. Even on a Saturday you almost think you will see tumbleweed rolling past down the street.’
About one in eight shops in Waterlooville town centre lie empty.
Planning permission has been given to bulldoze the AMF bowling alley in Bedhampton and users are hoping the company will take over the new bowling alley in Waterlooville.
The cinema will be the only one between Portsmouth, Chichester and Guildford.