It’s not all happy in Bournemouth at the moment as the local council grapples with the decision as to what to do with the Happyland amusements site.
For two years now, Bournemouth council has been examining options for a prime seafront spot, with a tricky position: it cuts straight into the cliffs.
So when Happyland eventually vacates the premises, the sounds of kerching, which were probably ringing in the council’s ears at the salivating prospect of a seafront property to lease out, well, that is sounding a little more mute at the moment.
Ideas of hotel and conference developments on the seafront and the notion of a different direction for both the site and the resort has floundered in this particular spot.
The plan is proving more difficult than previously expected. Confusion was sparked at a recent conference where a council official advised that Happyland was being considered for redevelopment as a hotel. One councillor later said the “open market” will decide.
At the moment, neither has made progress,not least because the site is, even by the council’s own description, a “very difficult” plot.
And worse still for the Happyland arcade,the west side of the centre has been fenced off for several weeks – with ice-cream from the parlour currently off the tourist menu.
So, where does that leave Happyland in the medium term? Still hanging on a cliff-edge, but with some very positive support it seems. The local newspaper certainly thinks so.
In a commentary, the Bournemouth Echo was very clear that the old Happyland remains close to the town’s hearts:“If the council want to keep talking about ‘Iconic’ how about telling me what else on the seafront has been running for 40 odd years? I remember going there as a young child and playing the pushers as my nan played bingo upstairs and MANY years later I actually worked there.
“First let’s look at the councils ‘underused‘ claim. If people remember the top floor used to be used until the roof was classed as damaged and they expected the RENTER to fix the roof so they could use the top floor (remember it’s the council that lease it) which I expect would have cost a lot to do so it’s underused due to the council.
“Now let’s look at the council’s turn from a family resort to the ‘night time economy’ in the late 90s Happyland would be open till the early hours of the morning and it was common to see people play- ing the bingo at midnight but a few years on that had all changed with the lack of families going to the beach in the evenings.
“The final point (if I remember the conversation correctly) years ago it was a joint venture with the council and the staff would wear seafront uniforms but as soon as the council were no longer involved they just wanted people to go to the pier arcade and the advertising for Happyland vanished from the pier approach.”
As nostalgia stirs Bournemouth’s seaside spirit, it’s good to see that the Happyland arcade is definitely not dead,and it’s definitely not forgotten. The same probably can’t be said for the council’s hotel plans.