Ballymena town centre: approval for new amusement arcade permit granted
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The council’s Neighbourhoods and Communities Committee approved the application for a proposed new amusement arcade adjacent to a rival business at Bryan Street in Ballymena town centre. The committee heard the planned new outlet would replace the applicant’s existing Twilight Zone premises at Bridge Street.
Diana Thompson, a consultant for objector Oasis Retail Services, described the proposal as “relocation of an existing premises”. She suggested there is “nothing to stop this operator keeping Bridge Street open as an amusement arcade or another operator taking over the unit”.
She went on to say Oasis has been operating at Bryan Street since 2021. The opening of another in the street, she indicated, would create a “double retail unit resulting in two units side by side, which would almost treble floor space devoted to gaming on this street” claiming it would result in “over 100 gaming machines” and “harm the character of the street”.
The applicant told the meeting his business has been operating at Bridge Street for 40 years. He said the new licence would “not be for the benefit of anyone else other than my own company”. He stated he has not had any objection from the PSNI.
He went on to say his amusement arcade was “one of the first in the town centre” for which a permit has been approved every year “without objection by the council or police”.
He noted a permit cannot be “sold or transferred from one premises to another”. “Financially, I do not think there is room for another amusement arcade in Ballymena,” he commented.
Patricia Allen, the council’s head of public protection, health and well-being, indicated the issue of noise has been addressed during the planning process and control measures will be “satisfactory”.
She reported environmental health has “no record” of any noise complaints from “either the applicant or objector”. “It is not appropriate to consider issues already dealt with by planning. There are no grounds to refuse this application.” She indicated business hours would be permitted from 10am until 9pm, Monday to Saturday.
Ballymena DUP Councillor Lawrie Philpott said: “Two operators trading on a similar licence side by side, I do think it is a bit detrimental to the company that has been there longer, to their investment in the area.”
Ballymena TUV Cllr Matthew Armstrong said: “There are considerations outside what is in this report. I am not in a place to make a decision.”
Braid Sinn Fein Cllr Archie Rae commented: “I find it very difficult to make a decision on this. Somebody there is already operating. Why are they all moving to the same place? Is it to make more money? Ballymena is a big place. Why should it all be in the one place?”
He was advised that it is the role of the committee to consider if the applicant meets the criteria and can manage the premises appropriately.
Coast Road DUP Cllr Angela Smyth proposed approving the application seconded by party colleague Carrickfergus Castle Alderman Billy Ashe MBE. The application was granted following a vote in which 11 councillors were in favour with seven abstentions.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter