PLANS to develop a council-run ten pin bowling alley in a leisure centre should be examined further, it has been claimed.

Darlington Borough Council’s leaders faced a number of questions as its cabinet approved a £1.6m scheme for the alley, extended soft play facilities and an area for youths at the Dolphin Centre.

Councillor Lorraine Tostevin, the authority’s health and housing portfolio holder, told the meeting the five-lane proposal was “an exciting development opportunity” for the Dolphin Centre, particularly as it would be sited next to a cafe, so it would help attract more town centre visitors.

But a number of councillors questioned whether the leisure centre, which was opened in 1982, was the right site for the investment.

Green Party leader on the authority Councillor Matthew Snedker said the council appeared to have been “quite positive” with its forecasts over the bowling alley’s viability, predicting the Dolphin Centre would outperform the industry’s average number of games.

Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Anne-Marie Curry added many residents had expressed doubts whether the Dolphin Centre was a suitable home for the bowling alley and had pointed towards the vacant former Sports Direct store off East Street as a better location.

She said while the Dolphin Centre meant the bowling alley would be restricted to just five lanes, other sites would have space for many more lanes and enable families to park directly outside.

Independent group leader Councillor Kevin Nicholson said to ensure the alley was a success it would need to be well run and stylish.

He said: “What I would hate to see is a replication of the Dolphin Centre, which I don’t think is very stylish or engaging. It does need a bit of work. People want experiences.”

The authority’s director of economic growth Ian Williams replied the authority was trying to create “a vibrance and things for young people to do” in the town centre and there was under-utilised space at the Dolphin Centre. He said the alley’s viability would benefits from “an element of sharing overheads” with other ventures at the centre, and that the council would take advice from vastly experienced professionals in setting up the alley. He said the amount of money that the council had to invest in the alley was less than commercial operators such as Lane7, so “we have got to be realistic with what we can afford”. He said the forecast figures were prudent and security guards and staff would stop the youth area becoming a magnet for antisocial behaviour.