Published: 12/11/2010 09:00 - Updated: 12/11/2010 14:21

'Ghost town' fears for Stortford after bowling alley closes

Written byBy James Burton

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

Lakeside SuperbowlThat 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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