TOWN centre nightclub Casbah could be knocked down and replaced by a block of flats.

Developers are making a bid to demolish the popular nightspot in John Street and put up 12 flats in its place.

The club is still open for business, but the application by K Chesterman SIPP and Camp Hill Estates says the lease is up for renewal, and if it isn’t renewed the future use of the building is uncertain.

It adds: “The surrounding shopping area is in decline.

“Most of the buildings in the surroundings have either exceeded their design life or have outlived their purpose, and some shops have been boarded up.”

The area around the club has suffered trouble over the last few years - there was an assault in John Street last August and a man was arrested after a group of men were fighting the previous November.

Recently sex attacker John Ritchie told a court he would wait outside Casbah, and other clubs in the town, waiting for drunk, vulnerable women in order to be able to molest them.

These issues are alluded to in the planning application: “Night club and drinking establishments have tended to coalesce around this part of town.

"Within and surrounding the area there gave been public disorder problems associated with these establishment.”

The developers have picked up on the borough council’s expressed wish to make the town centre more of a mixture with more people living in what is mainly a shopping area with pubs and nightclubs open in the evenings.

They said: “The site represents an opportunity to provide a corner landmark building in an area that is declining.

"Setting the building taller will create an economic incentive to develop the neighbouring buildings and this will in turn help achieve regeneration objectives.”

The application, which is for outline permission only with specific details of design and lay out to be agreed later if approval is given, shows the apartment block could be a strikingly modern building, significantly taller than the existing two-story, gable-roofed building which started life as a motorcycle show-room.

“A five-storey structure is proposed. The adjacent buildings are approaching the end of their sell-by date," said the developers.

"It is hoped by going a bit higher it will set a trend that would rejuvenate or reverse the decline in the area.”

Plans can be seen and commented on at