Residents against plans to demolish Stevenage snooker club

Churchill Retirement's design of 38 homes they want to replace Rileys

Churchill Retirement's design of 38 homes they want to replace Rileys - Credit: Archant

Residents have spoken out against plans to demolish an historic building for a sheltered housing development.

Churchill Retirement Living held an exhibition on Monday detailing its plans to knock down Rileys sports bar and snooker club in Stevenage.

The developer plans to build 11 two-bedroom apartments and 27 one-bedroom apartments at the site in Letchmore Road.

Churchill Retirement Living is currently negotiating the purchase of the site which, if successful, would result in the bar’s 16 employees being made redundant.

The building originally opened in 1935 as the Astonia cinema and later became a bingo hall.

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Brian Norman, 68, of Alleynes Road, has lived in Stevenage his entire life and often visited the Astonia as a young man.

Speaking at the meeting, held at the nearby High Street Methodist Church, he said: “To me, this would be as bad as pulling down Buckingham Palace. It doesn’t seem right for people to move in somewhere and tear buildings down that have been a part of the area for decades. It just seems like such a shame.”

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Hugh Madgin, who lives in Baker Street and is the author of historical book Stevenage Through Time, said: “This is an example of Stevenage shedding its heritage in favour of another identikit block of flats. Of course there is a need for more housing, but I don’t think this is the right place for it.

“It would be wonderful to see it return to its original use as a cinema or some kind of arts installation rather than yet another housing estate.”

Planning Director of Churchill Retirement Living Andrew Burgess said: “This building is of no architectural value and is a very poor example of its type. The new building for sheltered housing will enhance the area and will be a vast improvement to the character of the area. The majority of people attending the Public Exhibition supported the replacement of the building. There is a great need for older peoples housing in Stevenage and this scheme will assist in making up the shortfall.”

If negotiations are successful, the developer will submit a planning application to Stevenage Borough Council with the intention of completing all building work by late 2015 provided approval is given.

The current leaseholder for the Rileys site was unavailable for comment at the time of the Comet going to print.

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