LETTER: Hands off indoor bowling club

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I attended a meeting called by the directors of Horsham Indoor Bowls Club, to be informed that Horsham District Council is proposing to pull our building down and build the new leisure centre in its place.

This comes after very clear and positive proposals and plans were agreed with HDC some 12/18 months ago that we would have new premises on the green land to the south, providing a six rink facility with fully-dedicated changing rooms, toilets and catering.

HDC understood after several meetings with our directors that we needed such facilities to continue to fulfil our sporting fixture list in the traditional manner, which we have followed over many years. We accepted the compromise of rinks being reduced from eight rinks to six. We were looking forward to more details to be confirmed in the not too distant future, as our present lease expires in June next year.

Jonathan Chowen, Cabinet Member for Arts, Heritage and Leisure, informed our stunned directors at a meeting on Friday last week that all previous plans were scrapped! There was no prior warning of HDC’s intentions! No opportunity for discussion or amendment - just take it or leave it! Thank you Mr Chowen for nothing.

So it came as a complete shock to be told that we, the members, would not have the new facility as agreed and that our present building would be demolished. How duplicitous can you get?!

There was some suggestion that indoor bowls might be catered for in the new centre with 2/4 rinks being available, but without any dedicated changing or catering facilities.

Horsham District Council really don’t understand bowls, neither have they taken the trouble to find out how the game is run or how important it is to our members.

History repeats itself, because about 20 years ago when I was playing outdoors in Horsham Park for Warnham Comrades Bowls Club, we were suddenly invited to go and view a new bowls green which HDC had built at Holbrook, along with a barn-like building and playground.

Members of our committee had not been consulted prior to the event and found on inspection a green which had been so badly laid that it could not be played on, nor were there any dedicated changing or catering facilities in the barn. So for years the green lay dormant and has only recently been dug up and relaid, as Horsham Bowling Club have taken a lease on the land and laid a proper green, and built a building totally suited to their needs!

Horsham and District Indoor Bowls Club has been running very successfully for 19 years, with excellent facilities - eight rinks, ladies and gents changing rooms and toilets, a bar (run by our members) and a 100 seater restaurant run by Colin and Dee Morley continuously from 2005.

We have a full fixture card for both Ladies, Gents, and mixed matches with clubs all over West and East Sussex as well as Surrey, Kent, Middlesex, Essex and the London area.

We are affiliated to the English Indoor Bowling Association for both men and women, we enter teams for all the national and regional competitions and county leagues. In the past year a dedicated group of experienced bowlers have encouraged schoolchildren as young as ten to join and be given training. They have taken to the game with great enthusiasm, supported by their parents and schools - they love it.

Almost from the beginning, teams of blind and partially-sighted bowlers play matches every week.

Additionally, many local groups use our bar and catering facilites for their business or social events, paying for the privilege.

So to this week’s article in the West Sussex County Times. How beautifully portrayed it is for the benefit of Horsham residents - yet the demise of our excellent bowls club is not even mentioned. Talk about burying bad news - this an example of local government at its worst.

Can you believe it Horsham, with all the hundreds, nay thousands of new houses being built and planning to be built, that we cannot provide a good indoor bowls green for the influx of new residents of all ages.

There will be new blood out there with bowling experience, who will have to travel between 15 and 20 miles to join a club. And our district council wants to create a town fit for the 21st century? Wake up HDC - don’t write off the thousands of people who want the opportunity to enjoy a variety of sports, including bowls!

Finally, when it comes around to re-elect you, we will not forget this decision you have made.

JOHN PEERS

Ringley Road, Horsham