Bowling enthusiasts are to pack Ryedale District Council’s chamber on Thursdaty night (September 5) in a bid to persuade the authority to re-open the Bowling Centre at Norton.
They want the council to grant a licence to enable the 130-plus members of the bowling club to use it during the autumn and early winter months until they are able to produce a business plan to raise the money to buy and run it.
It is the latest move in a bid to save the popular amenity which is used as a bowls centre for teams over a wide area of North Yorkshire and beyond, competing against Ryedale players.
But Cllr Di Keal, Norton’s deputy town mayor who has been in the vanguard to save the 35 year-old complex, the aim is to have it as a meeting place for local organisations and even some commercial operations, to help its financial viability.
Norton Town Council has already put in a bid to have the indoor bowls club registered as an asset of community value under the Government’s Localism Bill and has been given until December 27 to produce a business plan, showing how the £400,000 can be raised to buy it from RDC and how it can be run in the future.
It is a tall order, admits Cllr Keal, a former chairman of Ryedale Council. “But I believe we can do it, judging by the support we have had already.”
A steering group of financial experts has been set up, Ryedale Community and Leisure Centre, to develop the blueprint which the bowlers believe will lead to a sustainable future for the popular centre.
“We want the council to agree at Thursday’s meeting to grant a licence for us to run the building from September to December,” she said. “Such a move would not only bolster our resolve to save and run it, but would keep the building warm and in use. If it remains closed, as it has been for the past few months, it will deteriorate which is in no-one’s interests.”
As well as raising the £400,000 to buy the centre, which the distric council wants to sell to raise funds for other projects, the aim is to find cash to refurbish it.
While grants have been considered, securing funding from such as the Big Lottery will take time, said Coun Keal. “That’s time we just don’t have so we are looking at a wide range of options for the funding, including commercially,” she said.
By packing Ryedale House tomorrow night, the bowlers believe they will prove to councillors that there is strong feeling that the centre should open again.
Cllr Elizabeth Shields, who also represents Norton on the distric council, said: “There is a lot of interest and determination in the campaign to save the bowls centre. It is a much valued asset in Norton, and a fine community amenity in the town. As a bowls centre it is used by bowlers from a wide area of Ryedale, and by visiting teams of players. It’s a popular venue for wedding receptions, social events, as well as dominoe and bridge nights. People are wanting to become involved in helping to save and run the centre because it is a great community asset.”
It was built in 1978 and for many years was run by Henry Richardson, making it one of the most successful bowls centres in Yorkshire.
Now, Ryedale bowlers say that if it closed for good they will have to travel to York or Scarborough to pursue their indoor bowls.
John Harrison, the chairman of the group, said: “Saving the bowls centre will not only be a big benefit to the many bowlers in Ryedale, but to the residents as a whole because of its advantages to the community as a social centre and meeting place.”
The leader of the council, Cllr Linda Cowling,said: “We will do anything we can to help the Ryedale Community Leisure Centre in its bid to acquire the building because the bowling club will be a anchor tenant. We are allowed to grant a licence to enable it to operate prior to a business plan being produced.
“If that will work in the best interests of the community leisure centre and bowls club, I hope the council will do it. I hope a business plan is put forward to buy the centre because that would be a win-win situation – the council would be selling the building and the bowls club and community would retain the facility for the Norton people,” said Cllr Cowling.