THE number is up for the town centre's Mecca Bingo, whose members have been given only a week's notice that the doors are closing.

The bingo hall, a feature of Regent Circus since 1929, is closing as part of the regeneration of the town centre.

But bingo lovers have questioned the speed of the decision.

Coun David Glaholm (Ind, Penhill) said: "Members were told about the closure on Sunday night - less than a week before it's due to close.

"Everyone is really shocked and a lot of people will be at a loss without the bingo hall.

"Personally, I think it's a tragedy."

A spokeswoman for the Rank Group, the owner of Mecca Bingo, said the bingo hall had been sold to Swindon Council.

The building was originally The Regent Cinema and opened in 1929.

The original cinema managed to regularly fill 1,322 seats - plus an area at the back of the auditorium where patrons could stand while waiting for seats to become free at the end of the rolling programmes.

The Regent was the first cinema to be built in Swindon with the talkies in mind, although it also had a separate programme "for those who favour the silent film."

It was later renamed the Gaumont in the 1950s and the Odeon in 1962.

In 1974 the cinema was replaced with a bingo hall, originally called the Top Rank Club.

Roy Howland, 80, worked at the Odeon as a projectionist.

He said: "I heard a little while back that it was going to close but I thought it would be in a couple of years.

"I don't know what is going to happen to it now.

"I would hate to see it boarded up and left to get covered in graffiti and vandalised.

"I have very fond memories of my time there, and I'm sure that goes for a lot of people."

Coun Phil Young (Con, Covingham and Nythe), cabinet member for economic development, regeneration and development, said he was surprised to hear that the bingo hall was closing so soon.

He said: "We would be quite happy for the bingo hall to continue on the site, and this decision has come entirely from Mecca Bingo Hall.

"We have given no direction to Mecca to leave.

"The site was identified as a strategic site for future regeneration and it is council policy to take ownership of those sites as soon as possible.

"It is likely that it will form part of the cultural quarter.

"At the moment there are no plans to do anything with the site in the immediate future."