Blackpool loses appeal over £7m bingo hall

The council’s refusal of a 25,000 sq ft bingo hall and drive-thru restaurant at Festival Leisure Park has been overturned with an existing pub now set to be demolished to make way for the development.

Designed by architect Bowman Riley, the proposals are to demolish the existing Swift Hound pub and replace it with a bingo hall, due to be operated by Bingo 3000, and drive-thru restaurant, which does not yet have an occupier.

The application for the site by Cromwell Property Group was originally to go before Blackpool’s planning committee in June last year with a recommendation to refuse, after planning officers considered the design of the bingo hall to be “unacceptable”.

However, following meetings with the applicant, a decision was deferred to allow for further work to the project’s design, and the proposals returned to committee on 17 July, this time with a recommendation to approve.

However, Blackpool’s planning committee decided to refuse the application, based on “the over-bearing impact” of the bingo hall on nearby houses; the “unacceptable” design of the bingo hall; the loss of the pub as a community facility, and a lack of car parking.

The developer then appealed the decision and the planning inspector has now ruled in its favour, although Blackpool Council has not been made liable to pay costs.

In a judgement, inspector Mike Worden said there while new housing development nearby could support the ongoing use of the pub, there was “no evidence to suggest that it would be of sufficient scale or nature to ensure the long term viability of the public house,” meaning that it could be demolished.

The inspector also said the proposal “would not be harmful to the character and appearance of the area”, and added the bingo hall would “not appear as out character with the rest of the [retail] park” given its location near to other occupiers, including an Odeon multiplex; Frankie & Benny’s; a Bannatyne’s fitness centre; and McDonalds.

On the council’s concerns over highways and car parking, where it had flagged potential issues of access via Rigby Road and Princess Street, the inspector said: “I have no evidence before me to indicate that the proposed access on to Princess Street would be unsafe or lead to highway safety problems on the network.

“I also have no evidence to indicate that the circulation pattern within the car park would lead to harm to highway safety.”

Blackpool Council, however, was not found to be liable for costs, with the inspector adding he did not consider that the council had acted “unreasonably” in its reasons for refusal.

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