The future of the Horsham District Indoor Bowls Club is ‘secure’ after it was offered a place in a new Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre.
John Coghlan, chairman of the club, told the County Times they had discussed the option of moving to a six-rink facility within a replacement leisure centre with Horsham District Council last week.
He expected the lease on the existing eight-rink club to be extended from 2015 to 2017 by the council, ensuring they had a home until a new facility is built.
Mr Coghlan said the outcome, subject to consultation and the council’s approval, was ‘tremendously good news’ securing a future for his club and members.
He added: “From that point of view we have a long-term future. It will be different in three years time but it will be achievable and sustainable.”
Jonathan Chowen (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead), HDC’s cabinet member for arts, heritage and leisure, said: “The discussions between the club, the council and the governing bodies have been constructive and form a solid platform on which to build a solution for indoor bowls to continue in the district.
“I am pleased that we have been able to find two possible options which will keep indoors bowls facilities available locally.”
Initial proposals for the redevelopment of the Broadbridge Heath Quadrant, announced by HDC in February, included up to 200 apartments, new retail and restaurant units, a medical centre, and hotel. While HDC committed to building a replacement leisure centre in 2012, proposals unveiled in February suggested that provision for bowls may or may not be included in a new facility.
Since then bowlers have been fighting to save their club by bombarding the County Times with letters, gathering a petition of support with 2,700 signatures, and marching on Horsham town centre in a protest attended by hundreds of people last month.
Club officials have had several meetings with officers and councillors following the submission of a revised business case.
Rather than originally thought a new leisure centre would not be built on the site of the bowls club, allowing them to remain open until work on the new facility is completed.
While developments were a big step forward, Mr Coghlan said that they would continue to look at what facilities could be provided for bowlers or might be shared with other leisure centre users.
He added: “We are not dead. We are not going to be thrown out of our premises and will continue as we are now and we will work with the council and the Joint User Group to get the best deal within the leisure centre.”
Mr Coghlan continued: “The support from the bowls club, and the clubs around the county and the South East, members of the public, and the County Times has made a distinct impact on the council’s deliberations.”
Back in November 2011 HDC announced the closure of the leisure centre without a replacement, but after months of campaigning by users, agreed to build a new facility in Broadbridge Heath in 2012.
Mr Coghlan added: “As one board member said to me: ‘It isn’t the best solution but it’s a workable one that we can accept with a few tweaks’.”
For a look back to the building of the leisure centre, see WOW guide p14-15.