Portsmouth City Council refuses to back down over bowls green fees

ANGRY Bowls clubs will be hit by a huge rent rise
ANGRY Bowls clubs will be hit by a huge rent rise
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PLEAS from bowls clubs for Portsmouth City Council to phase in a huge rent increase have fallen on deaf ears.

Portsmouth City Council is looking to save £128,000 by transferring the cost of looking after the city’s greens to the clubs in April next year.

But it’s feared fees at clubs like Canoe Lake Bowling Association, which has fewer members, could end up as high as £400 each.

Members say the increase will lead to at least five of the city’s 11 bowling greens closing, along with the entire Canoe Lake and Drayton Park sites.

The council has defended the move, saying that in tough financial times it is up to the clubs to become self-sustaining.

But the chairman of an association of the city’s public bowls clubs, Andrew Mitchelmore, said if the council could find money to fund activities like free swimming for the over 60s, why couldn’t it help them cope with the rent increase?

He said: ‘We have tried to propose alternatives to Portsmouth City Council such as phasing in the process, but they are adamant that it is going to hit us all at once in April. They don’t seem that bothered about withdrawing amenities like the Canoe Lake greens.

‘I think it is a great shame that these bowls associations are going to have to close, because of the support they give to their local communities.’

Marianne Unwin, of Grove Road North, said: ‘I played out at Canoe Lake the other week in a competition, many people came along and sat on the benches to watch and were even offered a cup of tea.

‘A match can take up to three hours so if you bowl three or four times a week you get lots of exercise and companionship.’

And Tory ward councillor for Eastney, Cllr Luke Stubbs, said he agreed the council should rethink its plans.

He said: ‘I think the clubs have got a point. A lot of money does get spent on things like cycling, but just because it isn’t as organised as a lobby doesn’t mean bowls greens like the one on Eastern Parade should disappear.’

But council leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘In such a difficult financial climate we need to make sure that the council’s money is spent on things that simply cannot survive without our support.’