LET’S take this one opportunity to regenerate our town.
That’s the resounding message from residents who are desperate for leisure facilities in Waterlooville.
It comes as the redevelopment of the former BAE site off Hambledon Road continues to trundle along and much of the site remains rubble.
Mark Walden, 51, a local postman and bowling enthusiast, has been talking to a well-known bowling company, which he says has indicated its keenness to come to the site but only if another leisure operator – such as a cinema – was included.
It comes as the council approved a large part of the site to be developed into leisure or retail at a planning meeting during the autumn.
Residents fear the site could become another retail park and the town will lose the chance to get leisure facilities.
Many people have been crying out for facilities since Bedhampton’s AMF Bowling shut its doors to make way for housing three years ago.
Mr Walden, of Bliss Close, Purbrook, said: ‘It’s time for Waterlooville to stand up and grow up and develop into a town that people want to come to.
‘At the moment the town centre is run-down. Where’s it going? It’s standing still. If we get a company that wants to come here, what is the council doing? Where’s the encouragement to sort things out?
‘We feel we have a lifeline and if we push for it we can get things done.
‘If we get leisure there, that’s going to attract people to and hopefully re-spark the town.’
The site is being developed by Hargreaves – which built the retail parks in Havant.
It is understood a DIY chain might be interested in coming to the site.
The Original Bowling Company, which ran the Bedhampton site, was unavailable for comment, but three years ago said alleys were only commercially viable with other operators.
At the time, it said it would be looking to move in the immediate area.
Cllr David Guest, who leads regeneration for Havant Borough Council and helped to build Port Solent, said he was meeting the developer next week for an update.
He said no leisure operator had come forward so far.
‘People are not sitting doing nothing,’ he said.
‘These sites don’t happen in five minutes, they happen very slowly.
‘Once it gets that centre of gravity, it will move forward. I’m confident it will become an attractive place to go.’
He added: ‘We are still looking for a name for it.’
Fast-food drive through and supermarket are agreed
PERMISSION has already been granted for a Lidl and a McDonald’s drive-through in a different part of the site.
Andrew Biltcliffe, head of planning at Havant Borough Council, said the former BAE building – which has planning approval for leisure or retail – was still the subject of legal talks.
He said: ‘At this time we are unaware of any commercial interest in providing a bowling centre or sports facility on the site, but the grant of permission will allow the site to be further marketed with the benefit of the planning permission.’
A report states 44 per cent of people in Waterlooville visit the cinema at Port Solent and 35 per cent go to Gunwharf Quays, with the remainder going to Chichester.