Dominic Bareham, senior reporter
Friday, January 11, 2013
An eagerly awaited six-lane ten pin bowling alley and cinema at a Norfolk town’s sports club has been scrapped after the owner sold the business.
Councillors had praised Chris Burnard’s plan to build the alley, cafe and single-screen cinema within a 675sqm extension at Heywood Sports and Racquet Club in Diss, believing it would have provided much-needed facilities for families with children in the town.
However, just nine months after securing planning permission from South Norfolk Council for the scheme, Mr Burnard sold the business to the new owners, father and son Ken and Tom Bobbins after failing to secure a bank loan to pay for the development, which would have cost over £700,000.
He said he was now concentrating on running his two pubs- the Greyhound at Botesdale and the George and Dragon at East Harling.
“I have got other business interests. It is a matter that after four-and-a-half years of being there, I had gone as far as I could with the club. It is time for a fresh owner with new ideas. We have got our hands full with the two pubs really,” Mr Burnard said.
The entrepreneur, who ran the club with his partner Morag, said he did not have the funds to develop the alley and cinema and was hoping to secure the bank loan to help pay for the development, but the economic downturn meant banks were more reluctant to lend.
He sold the business to Tom Bobbins, who is a regular customer at the club, on December 21, but Tom said he had no plans to revive the bowling alley project.
Instead, he will be spending tens of thousands of pounds refurbishing the squash courts, the men’s changing rooms and revitalising the Walcot Road club’s three tennis courts.
The keen squash player and former Scole United midfielder, who was previously a co-director of Colegate Vehicle Hire with his father, said he wanted to focus on improving the club’s sports facilities and believed he could increase the club’s membership numbers from the existing 200 to between 400 and 500 members.
He added: “I think it is going to start to thrive. I think the introduction of tennis and the rejuvenation of squash and racquet ball will help it thrive.”
Mr Burnard bought the business in March 2008 from the previous owner, who was in danger of going bankrupt and had provided two new gyms, squash courts, tennis and table tennis equipment, five-a-side football pitch, sauna and bar.
However, he believed the business had gone as far as he could it and had applied to build the bowling alley to introduce a “recreational element,” which would ensure it thrived in the future.