The council’s cabinet member for leisure has attempted to defuse a growing row over the future of the Horsham District Indoor Bowls Club.
Responding to proposals put forward by Horsham District Council for the redevelopment of the Broadbridge Heath Quadrant, bowlers have bombarded the County Times with letters expressing their anger at the treatment of their club.
But this week Jonathan Chowen (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead), HDC’s cabinet member for arts, heritage and leisure, said: “I thought it would be useful to re-emphasise that while some progress on the plans for the Broadbridge Heath Quadrant area have been announced, the work is still at a very early stage and nothing has been decided.
“The council has to carefully consider all the possible options as to what should be included within the new leisure centre.
“We need to make sure that the facilities included in the new leisure centre meet current as well as future demand, provide value for money and are sustainable.
“At one point the current indoor bowls club had over 800 members but membership has dropped over the years and the most recent rental review was based on a membership of 378, as advised by the Horsham Indoor Bowls Club.
“Sport England data also shows that the popularity of bowls nationally is declining.
“Against this backdrop, it is extremely important that the council can ensure any financial investment in a new bowls facility can be fully justified. The next step is for the Indoor Bowls Club to submit a revised business case for the council to consider.
“The council continues to speak with the local community, national sporting bodies and local sports clubs, including the Horsham District Indoor Bowls Club.
“I do of course fully understand the concerns that have been expressed about this issue but once again I must emphasise that no final decision has yet been made.”
Mr Chowen will be holding a live Facebook chat on Monday March 17 from 6-7pm on plans for the quadrant on HDC’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/horsham.district.council). Questions can be emailed beforehand to firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile John Coghlan, chairman of Horsham District Indoor Bowls Club, said their next move would be to submit a report to Mr Chowen setting out the club’s case.
He added: “I’m extremely heartened by the amount and volume and the sincerity and passion that is going into a lot of this correspondence.
“I’m pleased other clubs in the county are writing in saying what a vital part we play in the bowling scene in Sussex.
“They [the members] are really fired up and they are really anxious to hang on to a bowls club and for the continuation of a bowls club, because if we close early we are dead.”
Amongst those writing to the County Times this week was Peter Blanks, head of the County Coaching Academy, who is responsible for overseeing the development of emerging young bowling talent in the county.
He wrote: “Taking this facility away will probably end their short bowling careers as busy parents will find it very difficult to ferry them regularly to a location much farther away. This would be detrimental to the long-term continuance of the sports of bowls in the area.”
Horsham District Indoor Bowls Club is planning a demonstration on Saturday March 22 starting at 10.45am in the Carfax.
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