Planning permission is being sought from Hastings Borough Council to develop part of the first floor of the former Debenhams retail store in Robertson Street as a games arcade. The application, which is for change of use rather than any structural or design changes in the building, proposes the installation of pinball machines along with video, dance and virtual reality games. It is made in the name of C&O Entertainment Limited, though the building continues to be owned by a company named Moxie Management Two (“Moxie”) which bought it in January 2020. 

Architectural floor plans submitted as part of the application suggest that Moxie and/or C&O have wider ideas for other leisure facilities on the remainder of the first floor, though these are not part of the current application. An indoor soft play area, a cafe, a children’s mini-golf area, a three-lane bowling alley, and a “donkey derby” course are all mentioned.

CREDIT: Dave Young

The application proposes opening hours for the arcade between 9am and 11pm, with employment prospects for 30 full-time staff and 30 more part-time. 

There does not seem to be any reason of planning principle why the application should not be
granted.  John Bownas, manager of Love Hastings Limited, which represents and promotes existing town centre businesses, is cautiously upbeat.

“Although we don’t yet have full details of the whole scheme”, he says, “the general feeling is that, as long as the prospective operator is seeking to offer ‘something new’ rather than replicating existing things elsewhere in town, then this could be a really exciting development. The days of large department stores seem numbered, so the former Debenhams store seems unlikely to be attractive to new shops. If a mixed-use leisure scheme is successful in increasing footfall in the town centre, this could be just the catalyst we need to encourage more small to medium sized ‘boutique’ traders into the area.

“Ultimately the decision about whether a business moves into town rests with that business – neither the council nor any other public body can dictate which shops open, although where changes of use are proposed there is a role to play in controlling inappropriate changes that could negatively impact on neighbouring properties and the overall image of the area.”

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