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'Ghost town' fears for Stortford after bowling alley closes

By Alex.Day  |  Posted: November 12, 2010

Comments (3)

BISHOP’S Stortford is one step closer to becoming a “town of two halves” following the sudden closure of its bowling alley.

That is the view of civic federation chairman Richard Hannah, who fears for the entire South Street area’s future after the Lakeside Superbowl in nearby Anchor Street closed this week.

Operator Newbury Leisure Ltd, which operates 10 Lakeside centres across the UK, says it was losing money from its Stortford operation and is axing it to prevent the whole business from going under.

All staff at the Anchor Street venue have been made redundant. A second branch in the Midlands has also closed, but the remaining eight will stay open.

It is the third unit in the Anchor Street leisure complex to fall empty following the closure of fast food restaurant KFC and the more recent demise of nightclub Chicago Rock Café.

Mr Hannah said he was “disappointed” at the loss of a valuable leisure facility and warned that, without new investment, the southern end of Stortford’s town centre could soon become a ghost town.

He said: “It’s just going to finish up being a derelict area, isn’t it? A business has to be profitable and if it isn’t then a business judgement has to be made, which this company clearly has done.

“What’s worrying is that, in the bigger scheme of things, everything seems to be shutting up in that area around South Street. East Herts District Council and local entrepreneurs need to do some more work because, at the moment, we’re only seeing development aspirations for the other half of the town.

“That whole complex in Anchor Street always was a total eyesore – whoever designed it ought to be sentenced to 10 years’ hard labour. They must have drafted in the architects from hell for it!

“Henderson [which is planning a £105m shopping and leisure complex for the town – see page 4] could do something with that instead of the Causeway. It looks like a prison and would benefit hugely from regeneration.”

On Monday afternoon, staff at Lakeside Superbowl said the alley “might close in a couple of days” and advised customers to delay making bookings. But just hours later, equipment was being carried out of the venue and loaded into a van.

Newbury, which has begun insolvency proceedings, is holding a creditors’ meeting on November 29.

Dave Quaintance, managing director of Newbury Leisure Ltd, said: “This was a tremendously difficult decision to take and we deeply regret that we have had to take it given that jobs have been lost.

“We’d like to thank those former employees who have shown such dedication to the company in recent years. We hope as a result of the action we have had to take that the future of the company as a whole is now secure.”

A spokesman for insolvency practitioner MCR said that last winter’s extreme weather had played a part in the closure as Newbury lost £300,000 in nationwide turnover.  A Newbury spokeswoman said high rents on the Anchor Street site were also a factor.

She added that negotiations were under way to sell the venue to an undisclosed firm, said by other sources to be another bowling operator. She declined to say how many jobs had gone, but it is believed that about 15 people worked at the venue.

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  • Alex.Day  |  November 15 2010, 10:10AM

    I totally agree with Ian. What a sensible guy. It is about time someone stood up to this. The council at times can be a complete and utter let down. As Ian has highlighted, they are petty enough to harass an innocent person over a summer house. They are clearly wasting their time on little things like the summer house, when they should be focusing on more important issues.

  • Alex.Day  |  November 12 2010, 5:15PM

    How about somebody do something about this town? The South end of town hasnt even got a car park to service it. I cannot believe that everything is just being let go. Why cant the council take a cut in rents to try and help out struggling businesses? it will all be empty soon then they wont have any income from them at all,surely a little is better than nothing. While i am on the subject of a complete waste of time what about the office block "alcatraz" that is partially built on the old Atkins & Cripps site? Nobody has worked on it for over a year only to take the scaffold down. I put a summer house in my garden recently and was told if i had the one i wanted i would need planning permission as it was 200m/m over the laws. I decided to go for a lower one because i didnt want to waste time and money on red tape but i see its ok to half finish a project. I doubt if the plans for the office block look anything like the way it is at the moment.The sound that echos and reflects off of it is incredible. i didnt ever notice the planes but i sure do now along with the noise of the trains too its unreal. Why dont somebody stand up bash the desk with their fist and say "enough is enough" if somebody in the appropriate offices was to do that you my friend would get my vote eveytime

  • Alex.Day  |  November 12 2010, 1:05PM

    Antisocial behaviour in this area is rife. Police should be in these areas tacking the crime more, but they are nowhere to be seen. There are security men who patrol, but they often are either in McDonalds scoffing on food, or standing in the door way of KFC having a crafty cigarette. Illegally parked cabs also don’t help as trying to drive down past McDonalds and the former Chicago Rock Cafe are a joke. For some reason the cab drivers of Bishops Stortford, feel they are free from having any common sense and they seem to believe it is ok to park their cars right in front of the traffic lights by McDonalds so cars cannot pass. They also feel they are perfectly ok to park their cabs all along the road outside Fountain so that any unsuspecting driver who happens to come round the corner of Fountain on the right hand side of the road will almost certainly hit them or a drunken reveller trying to cross the road between the carelessly parked cabs. Things like this really put people off of going down in to that area. It is winter now, its chilly, if I want to go to the cinema, I drive down there but I can’t be doing with the chaos of trying to drive there. This area really does need a shakeup.