Meeting called to form new bowls club – but will the Council play ball?

New Bowling ClubA public meeting on Wednesday evening this week is to discuss the possibility of forming a new bowling club in Bradley Stoke.

The move comes almost twelve months to the day after the town’s  long-established Northavon Bowling Club was forced to wind itself up after a dispute with Bradley Stoke Town Council (BSTC) over the rental of the bowling green at Baileys Court.

The Town Council had insisted upon increasing the rent by 8% p.a. over a ten year period and when the bowlers refused to agree to the new terms they were locked out of their ground.

Defiant Bowlers at Baileys Court

The dispute, dubbed “Battle of the Bowls” by the national media, hit the headlines in April 2008 when a group of bowlers found their way into the ground to stage a protest match. The Council reacted by calling in the police, who turned up in force to deal with the elderly rebels.

Hopes of a possible settlement were raised in December 2008, when senior Councillors and representatives of the club were said to have informally agreed new terms, but the proposed deal failed to gain the support of the Council’s Finance and Leisure Committee.

The bowlers subsequently called an extraordinary general meeting on 24th January 2009, at which it was unanimously decided to wind the club up.

The fracas has had serious financial implications for the Council, which is now liable for the maintenance of the bowling green at Baileys Court, an £8,000 p.a. cost previously borne by the bowls club. It has also lost out on the £2,000+ clubhouse hire fees previously paid by the bowlers.

Cllr Julian Barge, Mayor at the time of the April 2008 ground invasion, told BBC Points West that the bowls club “needed to get into the real world”. Two years on, the Council is now having to face up to the “real world” consequences of its decision, which in financial terms must already amount to something in the order of £20,000 (excluding legal expenses).

The possibility of forming a new bowling club in the town was first raised by Cllr Ben Walker at a Council  meeting on 16th September 2009. That meeting was told that former Northavon President Jim Durlacher had expressed a interest in forming a new ‘Bradley Stoke Bowling Club’ to be based at Baileys Court.

The following morning, Cllr Walker and Mayor Mark Forsyth took part in a  live interview from the Baileys Court ground on BBC Radio Bristol. Representatives from the would-be bowls club were, however, conspicuous by their absence, which rather reduced the impact of the broadcast.

A press release put out the same day by BSTC quoted Mr Durlacher as saying he was confident of attracting 50 bowlers  to the new club in time for the 2010 season.

The previous bowls club is thought to have had around a hundred members at the time of its demise, but the majority of those have now joined neighbouring clubs and many are likely to be reluctant to return to join a fledgling group in Bradley Stoke.

When The Journal spoke to Mr Durlacher last week, he seemed to have set his sights somewhat lower, saying that he hoped he could attract 30 members for the new club’s first season. His concept of a maximum £35 annual membership fee is also likely to be at odds with the Council’s expectations – at that rate the Council is only going to recoup one tenth of the annual £10,000 hole in its finances caused by the demise of the old club.

The inaugural meeting of the new bowling club  takes place at the Baileys Court Activity Centre at 7:30pm on Wednesday (13th January). All those interested in bowling are invited to attend and training is promised for all new bowlers.

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  1. I’m glad to hear that there will be some minor amendments to this story as most of the info is way off the truth. I know that in recent months the council office,cllr ben walker mr and mrs durlacher and new members of the bowls committee have worked extremely hard to regenerate bowls in the area. It seems to me that negative press such as this serves no purpose whatsoever.

  2. Steve (Coles), I would be interested to hear exactly which parts of the article you consider to be “way off the truth”. I would describe the article as being realistic rather than negative.

  3. Bradley Stoke Bowling Club hasnothing whatsoever to do with Northavon Bowling Club and divorces itself completly from the article in the Journal.
    The future for the new club is looking very promising thanks to the efforts of the present steering committee and Councillor Ben Walker.
    Thanks to Steve Coles for his comments,

  4. Let’s hope this is the start of a bright new era for a newly formed bowls club and let’s hope that the town council and the bowlers can work in harmony to make the club a real success.

  5. Well said Jon.

    The Journal, as always, is fully supportive of sporting clubs and events in Bradley Stoke. Just take a look around the website and you’ll find plenty of articles about the Bradley Stoke Aquathlon, the Bradley Stoke 10k, football, netball, cricket, orienteering and more. We’ve even run an article on a bowls match (not at Baileys Court, of course!). Many of these events did not get a mention in any other publication.

    The Journal is fully supportive of the efforts to set up a new bowling club. That, however, does not mean that the decisions of the Town Council over the last two years will not continue to be subjected to careful scrutiny.

  6. After a really sucessful first meeting of the new Bradley Stoke Bowls Club tonight, I must thank all that turned out in the cold weather to show their support for the new club to start bowling on the green in April, (approx 40). I must also thank the new steering committee who have worked tirelessly to help start the new club and I look forward to working with them during the clubs development. This is a new start for a new club and the support of fellow councillors and the Journal is much appreciated and goes along way in the community. Kind regards, Cllr Ben Walker.

  7. I would like to wish Bradley Stoke Bowling Club every success – as a member of Wedmore BC I look forward to our forthcoming game with the club this season. (2010)

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