Plans to demolish Morecambe Superbowl and replace it with a new larger Aldi supermarket have moved a step closer.
Lancaster City Council planning officers have recommended that the scheme be given planning permission.
City councillors from the council's planning committee will meet on Monday, September 18 to make a final decision. This meeting, at Lancaster Town Hall at 10.30am, is open to the public.
We revealed in June that Morecambe's only 10 pin bowling centre planned to close after almost 25 years.
The Superbowl's owners have agreed to sell the land to Aldi, subject to them getting planning permission.
The supermarket chain wants to knock down the bowling facility and their own supermarket nearby, and build a bigger shopping store and car park in place of both of them.
The bowling alley building also currently includes Bedland and Sofaland furniture store, and Tongue ‘N’ Groove body piercing shop.
The new Aldi would be much larger (1,236 sqm) than the current Aldi store on Marine Road West (760 sqm).
Lancaster City Council has received 18 letters of objection from members of the public and four letters of support for the plans.
Morecambe Town Council has objected to the scheme saying there would be "no contribution to Morecambe’s economy; loss of the leisure facility; diversion of trade away from the town centre and the scheme is contrary to planning policy".
Lancashire County Highways has withdrawn initial objections. They were worried about lack of data about how the new supermarket might affect traffic in the area but are happier after holding talks with Aldi.
The Conservation Officer has not objected but has asked for the building to curve along Central Drive and have some "synergies with the Midland Hotel".
Lancaster Civic Society has objected saying the scheme "should be reconsidered to provide family entertainment and if the Aldi store is to be enlarged it is moved from the south west to the north east and landscaping introduced and the building materials to be more in keeping with the area".
Morecambe Business Improvement District (BID) supports the application saying "the existing buildings are looking tired and the new built form would be more pleasing; More local employment for the area and enables the relocation of the leisure facility to beyond Pleasureland."
A Lancaster City Council planning report published this week says the loss of Morecambe Superbowl, which opened in 1993, is seen as a "significant weakness of the proposal" but the new bigger supermarket would "improve the amenity of the area as a whole".
"It must be remembered that levels of investment to Morecambe are still comparatively low," says the report.
"It is regrettable the bowling facility and associated retail units are proposed to be lost; however a contemporary and visually appealing building is proposed in its place.
"Officers consider in general design terms there would be a general improvement to the amenity of the area as a whole. It is considered that approval of this scheme would not be detrimental to the vitality of Morecambe Town Centre, given that the supermarket operator already retails from a similar location, and from a highways perspective it is considered that the development is acceptable."
The report also says that Morecambe Superbowl is no longer a viable business and has no desire to relocate.
"The council accepts that there has been decline in the ten pin bowling sector over the last decade and there has been a gradual decline in the number of facilities," it says.
"Of note is that in 2013 (Superbowl owners) Taylors Cumbrian Amusements were granted hardship relief from the council regarding business rates on the basis that the council considered that the awarding of the hardship relief was in the interest of the local people (presumably to retain the leisure use).
"It also transpires that the owners of the business do not take a wage from the business and the owner has considered investing further in the business to help make it viable. The applicant has stated that investment in the machinery associated with the bowling equipment is now required (given this is in the region of 45 years old – the cost of replacement bowling machines alone would be circa £500,000).
"Bank funding has been considered, however given the trading performance of the business it would simply not be sustainable, given the ability of the business to repay any loan is based on its turnover."
Meanwhile the council has received a separate planning application for a new smaller 10-pin bowling lounge above Pleasureland amusement arcade on the seafront.
This has been put in by Pleasureland owners JET Ltd, who also own the new Jump Rush trampoline centre on the Winter Gardens car park. The council will make a decision on this in due course.
"The provision of alternative, (generally smaller) in-centre ‘boutique’ bowling facilities with a focus on food and beverage is now a fashionable alternative to the traditional ten-pin ‘bowling alley’," says the Lancaster City Council report.
"The growth of alternative entertainment (including trampoline parks; but also other forms of entertainment such as ‘escape rooms’ which are also becoming more popular) puts further pressure on large bowling alley operations, that need to diversity in order to commercially survive."
In June, an Aldi spokesman said: “The building is generally in a poor state of repair and does not present a high-quality frontage to Marine Road.
“The significant investment proposed by Aldi will provide the opportunity to improve the visual appearance of the site which is visible from Central Drive and Marine Road.”
In a letter to the council earlier this year, Elleray Harris from Superbowl owners Taylor’s Cumbrian Amusements Ltd wrote: “The business has for some years now been suffering from falling visitor numbers and increased maintenance costs due to the age of the building and as such, has been in decline.
“The business is, I regret, not sustainable for the foreseeable future and will need to close as a Superbowl and leisure facility.
“Other than the offer from Aldi, we have not received any other offers of interest in the site and as such, I believe the site would remain vacant and unoccupied had we not agreed terms to sell the site to Aldi.”
David Taylor from Taylor’s said in June that the Superbowl wouldn't close for “a good few months yet”.
Mr Taylor said the sale of the land to Aldi was dependent on Lancaster City Council granting planning permission.
“We’ve had it for 10 years,” he said.
“It’s been hard going. We’ve given Morecambe our best shot. We’ve had a reasonable offer from Aldi.”
Terry Wilcock from Tongue ‘N’ Groove said in June: “No matter what the outcome we will be carrying on our business as we have done for the past 20 years.”
A spokesman for Bedland and Sofaland said at the time he would prefer not to comment.
Aldi opened its first stores in the UK in 1990 and currently runs around 600 stores across the country.
They have shops on Marine Road West in Morecambe, Scotland Road in Carnforth and Morecambe Road, Lancaster.
Aldi said the new development would create between 30 and 50 jobs for local people within the foodstore plus additional employment for construction, maintenance and window cleaning.
The announcement of plans for the new supermarket comes as the wait continues for work to start on building a planned £17m retail park on the former Frontierland fairground site next to Aldi. The Polo Tower was demolished on the site in June 2017.