Plans to allow Rugby’s Superbowl bowling alley to be converted into a Matalan superstore are expected to be approved this evening (Wednesday).
The proposal has faced various objections, with Rugby First fearing it will damage trade in the town centre and various others concerned about the loss of a popular leisure and sporting facility.
But Rugby Borough Council planning officer Owain Williams has recommended that councillors grant permission for the change of use for the building, which is on the Junction One retail park. The matter is due to be discussed at a meeting of the borough council’s planning committee this evening.
Various official objections to the application have been lodged by residents and sportspeople. Among the concerns raised, and listed in Mr Williams’s report, are that “there are very few other leisure facilities in Rugby,” “the bowling centre offers a vital service to many people on a regular basis as well as to many others on a more casual basis” and “there are regular bowling leagues and regional competitions which use the centre bringing people from outside the town into the town”.
Another bemoans the “loss of a facility that has been a source of vital support for many families with children who cannot access other sports activities due to their very different and diverse needs”.
And Rugby First, which is responsible for promoting trade in the town, believes the store “would compete directly with the town centre” and should instead form part of the planned extension of the Clock Towers shopping centre in Evreux Way.
The application is being made on behalf of Orchard Street Investment Management, which owns the retail park – and the firm insists the change is necessary.
In a document submitted with its application, it states: “In order to ensure the on-going success of the retail park, the applicant has heavily subsidised the rent of the bowling alley for the past three years. Both the tenants and the applicant recognise, however, that this is unsustainable in the long term and, as a result, the bowling alley is due to close in the coming months.
“Following the closure of the bowling alley, the occupation of the unit by a large format retailer would ensure that the unit does not remain vacant for any significant period of time despite the fact that a unit this size with such a limited frontage is unattractive to many retailers and difficult to let.”
Matalan is a homeware and fashion retailer. It has 217 stores across the UK.
The borough council had been due to discuss the matter earlier this year, but delayed a decision owing to changes in the plans.
This evening’s meeting begins at 5.30pm and is open to the public.