A COUNCIL has no power to stop a bowling alley being closed.
Fareham Borough Council leader Sean Woodward said there is nothing the authority can do to prevent Go Bowling shutting. The owners want to turn it into a Matalan.
It comes as councillors have added their support to a campaign to stop the change of use for the unit in Newgate Lane from leisure to retail. A decision on the application submitted by owners Eskmuir Securities Ltd will be made by the planning committee but Cllr Woodward said the council cannot stop it closing even if it refuses the change of use.
He said: ‘It would be a great shame to lose the bowling alley but unless somebody wants to take over the building with the consent of the landlord and run a bowling alley I cannot see the closure being avoided even if the change of use was refused by the council.
‘The council cannot force one particular commercial operator to trade in preference to another.’
Nearly 200 people have objected to the plans on the council website and more than 3,000 have ‘liked’ the Save Fareham Go Bowling Facebook page.
One of those to object is Trevor Fitzpatrick, from Nobes Avenue, in Bridgemary, who said it would make more sense to move Matalan to the empty, former JJB unit in Fareham town centre.
He said: ‘Why don’t the council put Matalan in the unused JJB sports building? I can not understand the logic. Surely this shop would be better suited to the town centre.’
Michael Dunn from Gosport agreed. He added: ‘This centre is an integral part of the leisure facilities within the Fareham and Gosport area.
‘Without leisure facilities the younger generation will end up more unhealthy than they currently are.’
Ward councillor Dennis Steadman said there are already a lot of commercial units in that area.
‘There are already so many commercial firms so to lose a leisure facility would be a great loss,’ he said.
‘I know a lot of young people bowl there so where would they go? I am very surprised at the news and it is very sad.’
Leader of Gosport council Mark Hook said it was disappointing that the area would be losing the alley.
‘Go Bowling did not just serve Fareham and Gosport, it served the region so it is very disappointing that it could close,’ he said.
‘I used to bowl there as part of a league so I have good memories.
‘It will be disappointing because bowling is a sport everyone can do and as a council we are promoting healthy lifestyles.’
In the application it says Go Bowling has been trading uneconomically since at least 2008 and would be vacated by June 5.