Bowls club may not survive price hike

Sleaford Indoor Bowls Club representatives hand over their petition to North Kesteven District Councillor David Suiter. EMN-190115-091230001
Sleaford Indoor Bowls Club representatives hand over their petition to North Kesteven District Councillor David Suiter. EMN-190115-091230001

A 660-name petition has been handed in to North Kesteven District Council by Sleaford Indoor Bowls Club members against a damaging increase in fees planned for their nearest car park.

The bowls club, which opened on East Banks in 1990 and has around 400 on its books, will lose many of its older members on limited fixed incomes, and could even become unviable and be forced to close.

As part of a new parking strategy by the district council to drive long term parkers out of the town centre due to come in from April, fees in the East Banks car park, once classed as a periphery commuter site, will double from 70p to £1.40 for up to three hours. Over three hours will jump from £2.10 to a whopping £5.20 (150 per cent) in a drastic rethink aimed at driving congestion out of the town centre. But, the bowls club says this will penalise its members - along with those who attend the council’s own flagship leisure centre next door.

Chairman and director of the club, Gerald Pask says this could be seen as an ‘own goal’ by the council if the charges end up deterring sport and fitness participation - contradicting its recently adopted sport and physical activity strategy for the district.

He said members come and play between three and six times a week, often the only time they get out and exercise, but would have to cut down if faced with having to find another £100-200 a year. He said: “The council are not helping us out at all. We have had meetings with NKDC but all our proposals for compromise have been rejected.”

Many members of visiting clubs have also signed the petition, he says, claiming they would think again about travelling to play in Sleaford, whereas other clubs have their own dedicated car parks.

Chairman of the venue’s management committee, Roy Barnes added: “We are starting to lose out on securing competitions when the Lincolnshire league looks at venues. Quite honestly, our club will close if this price rise happens.”

Mr Pask said the club has not got the reserves to look at relocating either.

Club finance director, Brian Coyne said: “The feelings are understood to be just as strong at the leisure centre, but as it is a council-owned facility we could not have our petition there too.”

Councillor for Sleaford Navigation Ward, David Suiter received the petition on Monday, agreeing that parking fees would be too expensive: “We should help them as much as we can. If parking charges go up we will get more people trying to avoid the car parks and fill up streets instead, affecting residents. The car parks should be there to benefit the community and the economy, not discouraging people from coming to the town.”

Coun Richard Wright, Leader of NKDC, said: “Executive Board recently approved a Car Parking Strategy for the town, built around a great amount of work that has detailed car park usage, reasons for stays and peak demand times.”