HELP save our bowling alley – that is the rallying message from people who are fighting to save Go Bowling from becoming a Matalan.
The bowling alley in Newgate Lane, Fareham, is the only one in the area and if it closes, Bowlplex in Gunwharf Quays will be the nearest lanes.
A planning application has been submitted to Fareham Borough Council by owner Eskmuir Securities Ltd to change its use from leisure to retail.
Regular users of the alley have been devastated by the news.
Al Ashby, who is secretary for the Youth Bowling Club, said: ‘If the bowling alley closes, it will be a big blow for the community.
‘So many different people use Go Bowling, from disability groups to kids to all the people in the leagues.
As soon as it gets permission to become retail, we have lost it forever.Al Ashby
‘When I found out, I thought someone was joking.
‘I thought it was an April Fools joke because the application went in on April 1.
‘We need to concentrate on keeping it for leisure; whether that is for Go Bowling or another bowling company.
‘As soon as it gets permission to become retail, we have lost it forever.’
The Youth Bowling Club is just one of the different groups which use the bowling alley regularly.
Without it, Al, from Bridgemary, in Gosport, said the club could be forced to close. ‘If we don’t have somewhere to bowl, our club becomes an orphan and that could mean we can’t compete in the tournaments like we do at the moment,’ he added. ‘The kids will be gutted.’
In the planning application’s covering letter, Eskmuir Securities Ltd said ‘the business has been trading uneconomically for some time (since at least 2008)’.
It says: ‘Go Bowling will be vacating the unit on June 5.
‘Eskmuir has been seeking to secure a more permanent occupier for the units, including an alternative leisure operator.
‘However, this exercise has not resulted in any interest.
‘Matalan has a requirement to locate in Fareham and has remained interested in the units.’
Carol Howell uses Go Bowling with the Fareham branch of Parkinson’s Society.
It goes there monthly to give people with the illness the chance to bowl.
She said: ‘It is devastating. We use it every month and without it, we would have to travel out to Southampton. That would mean getting a minibus because not everyone would be able to get there.
‘It is a real benefit for our disabled members to socialise and have a nice afternoon out.’
A Facebook group has been started called Save Fareham Go Bowling and it has nearly 2,500 likes.
University student Dan Statham, from Portchester, set up the page in a bid to show how much support there was for the bowling alley.
The 19-year-old said: ‘I used to bowl there a lot when I was younger. I went every Saturday with my dad for 11 years so it is very sentimental to me. I was shocked when I first heard the news.’
He added: ‘When I first set up the Facebook page, I expected to get a few hundred likes so to reach more than 2,000 in 24 hours was incredible.
‘It shows the support it has from people in Fareham and further afield.’
Friends Anne West and Beryl Featherstone bowl there every week as part of a small group.
Anne, 75, from Warsash, said: ‘We love bowling here. We thoroughly enjoy it and it gives us the chance to do some exercise. I just don’t understand why the company would want to see it closed.’
Beryl, from Lee-on-the-Solent, added: ‘It’s just dreadful that it could close.’
More than 30 objection letters have been submitted on the council’s website against the plan.
Eskmuir was not available for comment.