Bingo club reprieved from closure
EXCLUSIVEBy Roddy AshworthA BINGO club that was threatened with closure by a council's ambitious redevelopment scheme will not now face the axe.Thousands of the 22,000 members of Gala Bingo in Osborne Street, Colchester, had signed a petition objecting to the plan to move the town's bus station to the club's site.
By Roddy Ashworth
A BINGO club that was threatened with closure by a council's ambitious redevelopment scheme will not now face the axe.
Thousands of the 22,000 members of Gala Bingo in Osborne Street, Colchester, had signed a petition objecting to the plan to move the town's bus station to the club's site.
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However, a new version of the St Botolph's masterplan - Colchester Borough Council's redevelopment scheme - is due to be published next month and will allow Gala Bingo to remain where it is.
John Jowers, the Conservative council leader, said yesterday that moving the bus station would not require Gala Bingo to vacate its premises and added the club would be able to continue as normal.
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“Gala Bingo can stay exactly where it is. Under no circumstances will they be forced to leave,” he said.
“We value their input to the life of the town and we can see no reason why there can't be an alteration to the plan made.
“As part of the masterplan there will be a bus station in the Osborne Street area and this might have minor implications for the Gala building, but that will only be if they agree.”
Steve Power, general manager of Gala Bingo in Colchester, said he was delighted to learn of the reprieve.
“If that's true, we are absolutely delighted. We have always been willing to work with the council, providing it wasn't a threat to the future of the club. If it is true, then on behalf of the club and its members I am very pleased,” he added.
Gala Bingo employs 70 people and at peak times during the year sees 5,000 to 6,000 visits a week.
Last month a petition was handed over to the council, signed by almost 2,000 people calling for a rethink on the threat to shut Gala Bingo.
Richard Bourne, deputy leader of the Labour group on the council, said: “I think this is a sensible step.
“But it is difficult to see how they are going to justify this given all their previous statements in which they said it had to go.
“This shows the success of the pressure put on the council by the Labour Group. However, I don't know where they will put the bus station if it is to be moved.”
Bob Russell, the Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, added: “I am delighted we are now beginning to see signs of public opinion being listened to at the Town Hall.
“I hope this is the first of many acknowledgments from the council that they have got it wrong and we can see a development which has public support rather than one that doesn't.
“However, this is not surprising because the council suddenly realised Gala had 20,000 members and wasn't going to move. They realised if they did take them on, they would get a bloody nose.”
The St Botolph's masterplan is currently being redrawn after a second period of public consultation by the council and it is anticipated the next version will be completed next month.
Meanwhile, the East Anglian Daily Times has launched a referendum asking readers for their views on the masterplan to redevelop the St Botolph's area of Colchester, which includes a new visual arts centre, magistrates' courts, bus station and heritage trail.
Completed forms can be posted in ballot boxes in Colchester in ASDA, Turner Rise, Sweets News, St Botolph's Street, Welhams Gents Hairdressers, St Botolph's Street and Minories Art Gallery, High Street.
They can also be sent to the East Anglian Daily Times, Fairfax House, Causton Road, Colchester, CO1 1RJ.