Eyes down for bingo hall plan

Stephen Ashe is setting up a new bingo hall on Station Road
Stephen Ashe is setting up a new bingo hall on Station Road

A Fleetwood-based businessman is planning to bring a bingo hall back to the town for the first time in nearly eight years.

Stephen Ashe currently runs the Tailor Made Upholstery shop from premises he owns on the town’s Station Road.

But Mr Ashe intends to transform the long, brick premises, formally occupied by Fleetwood Trawlers Supply Ltd, into a fully furnished bingo hall with a capacity of around 180 seats.

An application has now been lodged with Wyre Council planners for a change of use from retail unit to bingo hall with food servery - and the prospect of up to 15 jobs.

If the scheme goes ahead, it will be the first time Fleetwood has had a bingo hall since the Top Ten “Barney’s” Bingo, on Poulton Road, closed in April 2009. Mr Ashe, who intends to concentrate more on his property business and cease trading in furnishings, will be working with operator Newcastle Bingo Ltd.

The bingo firm already has similar operations up and running in Newcastle and Farnborough, Hampshire, and is shortly to open another in Shotton, North Wales. It is hoped the Fleetwood hall will open in March, subject to planning permission.

Mr Ashe, a 40 year old Ulsterman who has lived on the Fylde coast for several years, said: “I think this is just what Fleetwood needs. Word has got out and people keep asking me when are we going to open.

The nearest bingo hall to Fleetwood is the Mecca in Blackpool and that is about ten miles down the road. We are handy for transport links and not too close to local residents, so it is great spot. Obviously it is all subject to planning permission, but I think this is an excellent project.”

The bingo trade hit a low point a decade ago when a deadly combination of the smoking ban and online bingo killed off many bingo establishments, including Barneys in Fleetwood and then The Orion in Cleveleys.

But Gerry Chilsholme, of Newcastle Bingo, says the key to the firm’s future is the smaller scale of their operations.

Mr Chisholme, who has previous experience in working for various bingo establishments spanning 27 years, said: “It would be a challenge to run a very large bingo hall these days but we are dealing with much smaller venues.

“The emphasis is on friendliness, being part of the community.

“Our experience is that it brings a feel-good factor back into the communities.”

The plan is to call the new Fleetwood bingo hall Barneys, as the name is no longer is use, and Mr Ashe has even been given some old items from the original building Barneys on Poulton Road.

Mr Ashe added: “Wyre Marine Services, who now own the Barneys building, have given us the old counter, the bingo master’s podium and some other bits and pieces.”

The old Poulton Road building, formerly the Victoria Cinema before it became a bingo hall in 1967, is now to become apartments.

But if the latest plans for Station Road are given the green light, punters will be shouting out “house” once again.