BICESTER’S only bowling alley is set to permanently close amid £500,000 of cuts planned by Cherwell District Council.

Bicester Leisure Centre, which is home to Bicester Bowl, is operated on behalf of the council by Legacy Leisure, a partner of Parkwood Leisure.

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Budget proposals for the financial year starting in April 2022 identify plans for Cherwell to save £500,000 through a “review (of the) long-term contract” and adjusting services “to reduce annual costs”, including making permanent the temporary closure of Bicester Bowl.

The council’s three other centres - Spiceball and Woodgreen in Banbury and Kidlington & Gosford Leisure Centre - will also be affected.

People in Bicester are sad to see the bowling alley won’t reopen as hoped as it was a popular place for children’s’ birthday parties and family outings.

Carol Nunn commented on Facebook: “I think it’s disgraceful. More people moving to Bicester and yet another closure. Not everyone can get to the one in Banbury. I used to love taking my grandsons.”

To Hanson said: “A shame to lose any facility that’s appealing to youngsters, relatively inexpensive, and not a weather dependent activity.”

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Ruth Fox commented: "That's such a shame, my son had his birthday party there in 2019, it was great and the staff were very helpful and lovely."

At a meeting of the Budget Planning Committee, leader of the opposition Councillor Sean Woodcock (Lab, Banbury Ruscote) said: “With that sort of figure there must be some sort of change or reductions in provision. Clearly there is going to be some impact.”

Councillor Phil Chapman, lead member for leisure and sport, admitted “we cannot make this kind of saving without there being an effect” and explained how the cuts would be implemented. 

“It is an open-book contract and that helps because everything in the partnership is transparent and can be negotiated,” he said.

“For example, if no one is using something at 7am and that is currently open, that is being reviewed. It is silly to do that so those things will stop.

“Another example, the cafeterias are going to turn into self-service vending rather than being supported by staff. 

“It is all made up of bottom-up things but two blocks of that are in the building maintenance and the replacement of equipment.”

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Nicola Riley, assistant director for wellbeing at Cherwell District Council, added: “The service review has identified some areas. One of the most significant is the staffed cafes but (also) the tenpin bowling at Bicester, we are not going to reopen that because it requires too much subsidy. That will cease to happen as an activity.

“The focus has been on maintaining a leisure facility in each of our urban centres, to make sure that we did not have to close one, that we could get this saving and still provide that core provision of a swimming pool, swimming lessons, a gym and sports activity in a main hall.  Nothing there is changing.”

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