Distinctive town building could be set for revamp

Former Top Ten Bingo building
Former Top Ten Bingo building

A former cinema and bingo hall which is one of Fleetwood’s most distinctive buildings will be turned into flats if the owners’ latest plans get the go ahead.

The Top Ten Barneys Bingo Hall, originally the Victoria Cinema, was bought by Fleetwood-based dredging firm Wyre Marine Services last year with a view to leasing it out to the community.

There were hopes it could become a community hall, with some apartments, and even play host to film nights once again. But those plans were dealt a setback when the Fleetwood Plus Community Interest Company (CIC), the group which planned to lead those activities, folded last summer.

Now, with no other suitable plans for such uses in the pipeline, the owners have lodged plans with Wyre Council to use the premises for apartments and shops.

Debbie Greenwood, a director of Wyre Marine Services, said this week: “We will not be knocking down the building because we want to preserve it. But a few weeks ago some intruders got in and caused quite a lot of damage.

“We decided that, rather than wait and allow the building to deteriorate even more, we should move ahead with our plans as soon as possible.”

The plans are for 12 apartments and two retail units. The firm has applied to the council for a change of use and is waiting for planners to determine the proposals.

The company is looking to invest a considerable amount in the venture, and previously stated it would spend around half a million pounds improving the building.

Wyre Marine bought the premises, which have been closed for seven years, for £210,000 last summer.

The dredging specialists have a track record of buying buildings in Fleetwood and turning them into community spaces.

One such project saw a garage on Warren Street transformed into a hut for a taekwondo club.

The Top Barneys Bingo building has not been used since April 2009, when the Top Ten Bingo operation ceased, with the loss of 15 jobs.

In 2010 Rocky Richmond, the manager of the former Orion bingo hall in Cleveleys, planned to start leasing the Fleetwood building for bingo sessions but nothing came of the idea.

The cinema itself was built in the 1930s, although the builders did not design it as an art deco centre, like many of their contemporaries, and it has more of a classic design.

It ceased to be used as a cinema in the 1960s and closed.

Like many picture palaces from the golden age of cinema, attendances were hit by television and it then became a locally-run bingo hall - Barneys -in 1967 under the auspices of Bernard Killoran.

But after Herefordshire-based Top Ten took over in 2000, the business was closed down as a result of falling demand.

The indoor smoking ban and the boom in on-line bingo were cited as key reasons.

Since then, the building has been boarded up and has started to look untidy.

George Greenall, who led last year’s plans by the Fleetwood Plus Community Interest Company, said: “While I’m a little bit sad the bingo hall isn’t being used for the community, I’m glad it is being put to use.

“There are too many boarded up buildings in Fleetwood as it is.

“I’m also very pleased that Wyre Marine are preserving its facade, it is a nice-looking building.”