Ice rink to close doors weeks after rival opens

Closing down: Jubilee Ice Arena in Cleveleys 'is shutting its doors just three weeks after a rival rink opened in Bispham
Closing down: Jubilee Ice Arena in Cleveleys 'is shutting its doors just three weeks after a rival rink opened in Bispham

The boss of a doomed Fylde coast ice arena today blasted Blackpool Council for approving plans for a rival rink less than three miles away.

Jubilee Ice Arena, in Cleveleys, will shut down for the final time on Sunday, just three weeks after a planning application for Fylde Coast Ice Arena, in Bispham, was approved by Blackpool Council’s planning committee.

Sixteen people will lose their jobs as a result.

And furious directors of the Cleveleys rink, on North Promenade, say more consideration should have been given to the existing arena before a rival was given the go-ahead.

Director Mehdi Afshar said Blackpool councillors should take “full responsibility” for the closure. Wyre Council leader Peter Gibson said the closure of the Cleveleys arena would be a “sad loss.”

Blackpool Council’s planning committee voted to approve the rink in Bristol

Avenue, Bispham – home of the former TVR car factory – six in favour to two against.

This was despite recommendations from the council’s own officers to refuse the application after the rink had been built without planning permission.

Mr Afshar added: “It’s the council we’ve got to blame.

“Why did they give planning approval to one (rink) down the road from another?

“The council went against planning officers who said it should be rejected.”

Mr Afshar explained the new rink was offerings deals and prices his business could not compete with.

He added: “Ice rinks are a specialist business, the market is small and there are few ice rinks in the country let alone in our area.

“Of course that’s going to affect us. They’ve done cheaper prices and deals so people are going there.”

Blackpool Council today said planning applications were not determined based on competition with nearby businesses.

But Wyre councillors and traders have jumped to the defence of the doomed Cleveleys rink.

Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Council, said: “It would have been better if they (Blackpool Council) had taken into consideration the facilities elsewhere

“It is the Fylde coast, residents don’t see the authority boundaries like politicians do.

“It be very sad to lose the rink. It’s worrying for us in Wyre, I think that should have been taken into consideration in Blackpool.”

And Coun Lynne Bowen, cabinet member for leisure and tourism, added: “It is a shame.

“It is a bit inconsiderate when you consider this is a small area and the catchment for an ice rink must need a big area. I know they’re in two different boroughs but people don’t view it like that.”

Skating coach Andrea Roberts has said the closure now leaves her without a venue to teach classes to her more than 70 students, having used the Cleveleys rink four days a week since joining in January.

She added: “Since the other rink has opened our business has started to drop, so I’m out of a job now. This is my livelihood, I’m devastated.”

Martin Hunns, from Cleveleys Traders Association, said: “It was a good thing for young people in the area. It won’t be nice to have an empty building on the promenade.”

The new Bispham rink was passed despite a report by planning officers which warned the application contravened planning policies which say the council must protect the Bispham land for future employment purposes.

David Owen, chairman of Blackpool Council’s planning committee, said: “The planning committee must determine planning applications based on the merits of the scheme and the potential impacts of the development on the surrounding area, the planning policy of the council, taking all material considerations into account.

“The committee cannot resist applications on the basis of commercial competition.

“The planning system exists to ensure the appropriate use of land and not to protect private business interests.

“Competition in the market place is vital to create a healthy and robust economy and provide a better deal for consumers.

“Of course, I am always saddened to hear of people losing their jobs but I do not accept that it is the Planning Committee’s fault. It is the responsibility of each business to do what it can to secure its market share.”

Dan Nicholson, owner of Fylde Coast Ice Arena said: “Any (planning) agreement should have no relation to competition. The planning process has been followed, with careful consideration.

“The decision has come from councillors, who are long serving members of the community.

“There are obviously other issues regarding the closure, issues I am not aware of.”

As well as disco nights and open skating the venue has also been the home to Dancing On Ice stars Dan Whiston and Karen Barber’s Skate School.

The will host their final event at the Cleveleys rink on Saturday.

Dan told The Gazette: “I’m really sad to the hear about the closure of Jubilee as it has been such a fantastic rink for myself and Karen to use with Skate School.

“We would like to reassure everyone that Skate School is going ahead this weekend.”