PLANS to turn a bingo hall into student flats were knocked back as councillors debated whether they constitute valuable community facilities along the same lines as pubs.

Councillors also raised concerns about where delivery drivers would park, conflict with traffic on Fishergate, the location of accessible rooms and the amount of cycle parking.

The site was previously home to the Rialto Cinema and Ballroom and famously hosted The Beatles in 1963.

Officers had recommended councillors approve plans to turn it into 276 student flats and said they did not think the loss of the bingo hall was a reason to reject the plan.

Speaking during public participation, Councillor Pete Kilbane said: “The bingo hall is clearly a cultural facility, if not institution. 

“It may not be high culture but it is the culture of many and that needs protecting.”

The Mecca Bingo closed in March of this year, but council officers said they did not have information about its viability as a business. 

Councillors said that if the building was a pub, they would be demanding evidence to show it was no longer viable for that use.

Councillor Kate Lomas said bingo halls were traditionally used more by women and pubs by men.

She added: “There seems to be a little bit of a difference in how we categorise community and cultural provision based on whether it’s more of value to women or men.”

Councillor Rachel Melley said the building would not necessarily have to stay as a bingo hall, but could be put to some other community use.

She added: “I do think the loss of this space will disproportionately affect women and older people. There’s no other community space in this neighbourhood.”

A council planning officer told the meeting: “When you’re talking about day-to-day facilities for a community, we’re not talking about a village where we’re losing the last facility for people to meet as a community.”

Planning committee chair Tony Fisher said: “Bingo has changed a lot over the last few years, a lot more people play it online. These Mecca Bingo halls are frequently found to be unviable.”

The plans were deferred so that safety, access and cycle provision could be further investigated.

Councillors also asked officers to bring back more information about the viability of the bingo hall.

The council received 46 comments from the public about the application, with one in support.

People branded the scheme “over-bearing and overlooking due to the scale of the building and its proximity to neighbouring houses and gardens”.

They also said the flats would look “stark and out of context” and claimed they were an “overdevelopment of the site.”