TEN pin bowling fans packed the council chamber at Bexhill Town Hall on Monday to back demands for a new alley in town.
They had raised a petition of more than 3,000 names calling for a replacement to the Ocean Bowling amenity at Ravenside retail and leisure park, demolishedto make way for a new Marks and Spencer store.
After Lesley Thomas and Bill Roarty, together with young bowlers, highlighted the social, economic and sporting advantages of ten-pin bowling for people of all ages and abilities, Rother District’ Council debated the issue at a full meeting.
Cllr Charles Clark said the loss of Ocean Bowling had been “a travesty” while Cllr Paul Lendon said it must be replaced. “It was and should be an ongoing asset,” he said.
Cllr Simon Elford said the closure had been “purely a commercial decision”, but the council had secured a Section 106 payment of £1 million when approving the change of use.
Council leader, Cllr Carl Maynard, said the alley could have closed and just lain dormant, so to have these funds available was a bonus.
And with a desire to see the bowling alley replaced, he assured the meeting: “ We are already active, already engaged to take this forward.
“But we have to make sure the project is commercially viable. We want to see a thriving facility and so we need to get it right. We will work our hardest to make sure this happens, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Cllr Maynard added: “We want something that’s viable, sustainable and will flourish, not fall by the wayside.”
Cllr Jonathan Johnson said officers had been working to identify potential sites and providers.
The meeting heard that a possible, as yet unnamed site was being discussed.
But as to operating an alley, Cllr Johnson said: “So far no written representations expressing interest have been made, even by the outgoing operator Laserace.”
Council chief executive Derek Stevens said the outcome of enquiries and negotiations would be reported back to the council’s overview and scrutiny committee . This next meets in the New Year.
The council heard that no decisions had yet been reached on allocating the Section 106 funds, although Cllr Maynard indicated around £100,000 was likely to go to Bexhill’s town centre regeneration.
Pressed by Cllr Sue Prochak, Cllr Maynard said the issue would “come before Cabinet in a democratic and open process”.
He strongly refuted her suggestion that decisions were likely to be be taken “behind closed doors”.