A new bowls club could take up residence at Bradley Stoke’s Baileys Court Activity Centre in 2010, following secret talks between Deputy Mayor Ben Walker and a former president of the now disbanded Northavon Bowls Club.
The bowling green at Baileys Court has been virtually unused for the past two seasons after the old bowls club failed to come to agreement over the terms of a new rental agreement with Bradley Stoke Town Council (BSTC).
The dispute hit the national headlines in April 2008 when bowlers from the club staged a protest match at the Baileys Court green, despite being barred from the premises by the Council.
Seven police officers and PCSOs were called in to deal with the disturbance – a reaction dubbed “Operation Overkill” by the the Daily Mail, which portrayed the bowlers as a group of harmless pensioners being bullied by their local Council.
Northavon Bowls Club was formally evicted from the site in May 2008 and the club disbanded in January 2009.
In evicting the bowls club, the Council landed itself with an additional expenditure of about £7,000 p.a., arising from the fact that the bowls club had previously maintained the green at its own expense. This is because the Town Council is obliged by the terms of its own lease with South Gloucestershire Council to provide a bowling facility at Baileys Court until 2041.
Cllr Walker revealed details of his talks with potential members of a new bowls club to a meeting of Bradley Stoke Town Council last night (Wednesday). Fellow Councillors agreed to endorse a statement that “welcomed the interest shown by [former bowls club president] Jim Durlacher in forming a new bowls club at Baileys Court – to be named Bradley Stoke Bowls Club”.
The proposed name of the new club is significant as the fact that many members of the old Northavon Bowls Club lived outside Bradley Stoke was one of the main arguments put forward by the Council in justifying the rental increase it was demanding from the club. The bowlers countered this by pointing out that many of the Councillors involved in the negotiations were also “out of towners” – Cllr Julian Barge (Mayor at the time of the April 2008 invasion incident), Cllr Mark Forsyth (Chair of the Finance Committee during the negotiations in 2008) and Cllr Ben Walker (current Deputy Mayor) all live outside the town’s boundaries.
Cllr Walker told last night’s meeting that Mr Durlacher believes he can recruit around 50 members for the new club and emphasised that these would be “mostly from Bradley Stoke”.
Councillors agreed that the Mayor and Chairs of Committees be authorised to enter further negotiations with the interested parties.
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