COUNTY planners have given the go-ahead to convert a former Poundstretcher in Hereford into a bowling, laser and soft play centre despite fears it will lead to job cuts at a rival premises.

The applicants Mr and Mrs T McGee want to provide soft play, minigolf, an arcade, laser tag and bowling along with a function area and an ancillary café/bar at 41 Eign Gate.

The shop unit of 1,200 square metres had been empty for 18 months their attempts to find a new tenant had failed.

Herefordshire Council was satisfied with the proposals which they approved with conditions on June 6.

But Mehdi Afshar, chief executive of MFA Bowl on Station approach, fears there will not be enough custom in the city for two bowling centres.

“By creating a new bowling centre similar to our operation would result in job cuts within our premises,” he said in his objection to the proposals.

“We currently employ approximately 15 staff, in other words Mr McGee might create eight jobs, but on the other side, we will shed a number of jobs, so in total no further benefit to the job market of Hereford.

“There are also a number of factors such as car park, youth problems and so on and so forth.

“On the surface it may look attractive but it will create other issues and more importantly, I was of the view that retail should remain as retail, especially in the position that these premises are currently situated at and the cost for fitting such an attraction as described in the newspaper would be extortionate.”

But Richard Brown, a supporter of the scheme, said many locals have to travel far afield for leisure activities.

Richard Brown said: “I fully support this application as we as Herefordians have very little in Hereford for our kids and adults to do and end up travelling to Worcester, Gloucester, Cardiff, Birmingham and sometimes further for things like this.

“I would rather put my money in things happening in Hereford rather than giving it to another county.”

Hereford Civic Society also supported the proposals.

Chairman Jeremy Milln said: “Hereford Civic Society is concerned by the decline in Eign Gate, and in spite of the public realm works done there a few years ago, the street suffers from a chronic underuse of its commercial space.

“Therefore the present application to make use of the former Poundstretcher store which has lain vacant for around 18 months is welcomed.”