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Objections to new bingo hall

View of Sittingbourne High Street from St Michael's Church roof
View of Sittingbourne High Street from St Michael's Church roof

by Nicola Forman

Plans to turn a former bank into a bingo hall have been met with concerns.

An application to develop the former Halifax Building Society building at 40 High Street, Sittingbourne, has been submitted to Swale Borough Council.

Nick Smith, chairman of the Sittingbourne Retail Association, and Mark Brenton, manager of Mecca Bingo just down the road, are not sure this is what the town needs.

There is also an amusement arcade further up the High Street.

Mr Brenton said he thought it was "a silly idea" while Mr Smith said the town didn't need another bingo hall.

The bank closed in June 2006 when the company relocated to 70-74 High Street and the building has been empty since then.

There were plans to turn it into a coffee shop in August last year but planning permission was refused.

In a statement to the council, applicant Deith Securities Ltd said: "The proposed new business would be vibrant and interesting, it would add a new angle to the High Street, it will add vitality and viability to the area long with local employment."

But Mr Brenton said: "I've no idea what company it is, they are very brave, whoever they are. Mecca's been here 20 to 30 years and we have very loyal customers. I don't think the premises are big enough anyway. Hopefully it won't get through the planning stage."

However, Matthew Deith, of Deith Securities Ltd, said the application was a positive thing for the town.

He said: "At a time when no-one else is investing in the town, we are. We have converted the building upstairs into four flats. We are giving entertainment to the community which this town is severely lacking.

"Our business is totally different, it's local, communal bingo.

"It's a building that won't be empty any more and will help towards the regeneration of the town."

Mr Deith says if they get the go-ahead from councillors they hope to have the business up and running within eight to 10 weeks.

Mr Smith added that although he was pleased it meant the building would no longer be unoccupied, he didn't think Sittingbourne needed another bingo hall. He said: "I don't think the premises are big enough. Something like this is more suited to the retail park.

"Trouble is the High Street is declining so much, to not have an empty shop is a bonus. Businesses are closing all over the country, and not just independents, its the big companies too."

Councillors will have the final say when the plans go before the planning committee at a later date.

n Mr Smith also hit out at retailers who didn't attend the latest Sittingboune Retail Association meeting in June, saying: "We had to abandon it because no-one turned up. People are quick to moan but then don't do anything about it. Either that or they just don't care about the town."

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