Demise of bowls club could cost Town Council an extra £7,000 p.a. for next 32 years

The Journal has learned that Northavon Bowls Club, evicted from its Baileys Court base by Bradley Stoke Town Council in a row over rent, could soon be wound up.

An extraordinary general meeting of the club has been called for this Saturday (24th January), when it is expected that a vote will be taken on a proposal to dissolve the club.

The bowlers were evicted from their Baileys Court ground after they refused to sign up to a new rental deal, which would have committed them to annual increases of 8% p.a. on their £2,500 payment for room rental at the facility.

Prior to eviction, the club employed its own groundsman to maintain the green, at a cost of £8,000 p.a. This has now been taken on by the Council, which now operates the green on a “pay as you go” basis, for which  the take up is “probably non-existent” according to Council Chairman Robert Jones.

The Journal understands that, under the terms of its lease from South Gloucestershire Council, the Town Council is committed to providing a bowling facility at Baileys Court until 2041.

Having evicted the bowlers over the matter of a few hundred pounds p.a., the Council is now left in the embarrassing position of having to spend thousands of pounds each year maintaining a green that is hardly used.

With this bleak reality no doubt on Councillors’ minds, a proposal was put forward at the December meeting of the Finance & Leisure Committee for the club to be offered a much-reduced rental of £8,100 p.a. (inclusive of green maintenance), with a 6% annual increase (reviewable on a rolling basis).

This startling backtrack by the Conservative-dominated Council, which would see the effective charge to the club for room rental drop from £2,500 to just £100 p.a., was justified on the grounds of:

  • Reduced membership numbers, now that many have joined other clubs since the eviction;
  • The deteriorating economic climate; and
  • A (newly discovered) case for subsidising maintenance of the green.

The proposal, which also required the club to provide two personal guarantors, was carried (much to the surprise of the Town Clerk) by two votes to one, with a remarkable seven Councillors abstaining.

The club is understood to have since informed the Council that, with its depleted membership, it can afford to pay no more than £6,600 p.a. and that no members are prepared to act as personal guarantors.

The Council has said that it can reduce its costs to £7,000 p.a. by maintaining the green to “public usage” standard instead of the more demanding level expected for “club usage”.

The bowls dispute in pictures:

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