CAMPAIGNERS against the plans to shut Ryedale Indoor Bowls Club are launching a petition ahead of a crucial meeting in March.
It comes after around 150 people packed into the centre off Scarborough Road, Norton, to debate their opposition to the decision by Ryedale District Council which wants to sell the building for an estimated £400,000.
Representatives from the different organisations which use the building were on hand on Sunday afternoon as were members of Ryedale District Council, including four Conservative Party members who had voted for the sale.
The Bowls Club committee later received a near unanimous vote from the audience which wants them to try and overturn the decision.
Now campaigners will turn their sights on attracting as many signatures as possible for a petition and are calling on supporters to turn out in force for the next full council meeting of Ryedale District Council on March 21 when it is hoped they can overturn the decision and get a stay of execution.
“I see it as a chance to save the building initially from the immediate threat of sale by the council,” said Terry Wray, of Malton. “We need some space where a group of people can put together some alternative long term plans for the building, including the bowling club.
“Once it closes, the chance of re-opening it is very remote. It will end up a boarded-up shed that looks progressively worse for wear over the years.”
Cllr Di Keal, the Mayor of Norton and a member of Ryedale District Council, said: “It was great to see so many people turn out to support the bid to keep the Bowls Club open both for the benefit of the bowlers, but also for the wider community. There were people there from several other organisations who are regular users and it became clear during the meeting that the building is highly valued as a community venue not just in Norton but in Ryedale as a whole.
“It is vital that the members of Ryedale District Council who voted for the sale listen to the views expressed and rethink their decision. There are creative ways forward that would ensure the building could be kept for community use for the future and I would urge my fellow councillors to support officers to work with the club committee and other members and users who are determined to save the facility and to develop a sustainable plan for it’s future.
“This is too important a community building to Norton and Ryedale to be lost and those who voted for the sale of the site need to recognise this. Ryedale District Council values and supports many other similar sports and recreation facilities across the district and it needs to recognise the importance of the Ryedale Indoor Bowls and Leisure Club in a similar way.”
The Conservative group members on Ryedale District Council used its majority to push through the decision to close the club and the building last year, arguing that the building is under-utilised and costs them effectively £27,500 to subsidise the bowling club which had agreed a discount to its annual £37,500 rent.
That view is countered by supporters who argue that the council originally bought the building for £50,000 and has received £440,000 in rent over the last 14 years, earning a “nine fold return in their investment” and that more can be done to increase the use of the centre by different organisations.
Mr Wray added: “We are basically trying to argue that the council are going to destroy a valuable asset to get £400,000 in revenue. Since it bought the building for £50,000, the club has invested £130,000 in fixtures and fittings over a three year period which is a huge commitment by the club. In once sense, they could not have done that and left the place looking a bit tatty and not as nice as it is, and have more money left in the kitty.”