Talks were underway yesterday which are expected to lead to Ryedale Indoor Bowls Centre opening its doors again after owners Ryedale District Council agreed to grant a licence to one of the two rival groups seeking to run it.
At the end of a lengthy debate at Thursday’s full council meeting, members decided by a large majority that Ryedale Community and Leisure Club (RCLC) should be granted the licence to run the centre off Scarborough Road, Norton, until the end of the year, as a result of Norton Town Council’s successful bid to have it registered as a community centre under the Government’s Localism Act.
Councillors representing RCLC and the rival group, Ryedale Indoor Bowls Centre (RIBC) put forward arguments, with Liberal Democrat Cllr Di Keal, a member of the RCLC steering group, saying that its aspirations were to not only re-open the centre for bowling, but to make a community facility for other organisations, and commercial enterprises.
“We have a draft business plan but we are not yet in a position to say where the funding is coming from,” she said.
The ruling Conservative group on Ryedale District Council controversially voted to sell the centre for some £400,000 last year to enable the authority to fund other projects.
Cllr Keal said the RCLC had put forward a practical solution.
She said: “I am not doing this other than for residents of Norton. It could re-open by the beginning of next week. We have worked on a plan to have the centre operating much more than as a bowls centre.”
She said yesterday that she and the chairman of the RCLC were meeting Paul Cresswell, the council’s Corporate Services Director, as the first step to signing a lease which would see the centre operating once again.
Cllr Lindsey Burr, a Liberal Democrat, said there was interest by several other organisations in using the centre.
“We have got to look at the long term,” she said, before adding that the RCLC bid was “a fantastic way forward.”
Criticism of the two groups for “fighting each other” were “deplored” by Cllr Paul Andrews, an independent, who accused other councillors of “a conflict of personalities and possibly politics.”
He said: “The groups should work together for the common good and not get into political arguments.”
Cllr John Clark, leader of the Liberal Party and speaking for RIBC questioned whether the RCLC group had a constitution or cash flow plans. He unsuccessful moved that the issue should be referred to the council’s Policy and Resources Committee for the two bids to be compared.
The Leader of the Council, Cllr Linda Cowling, Conservative, said that until it closed a few months ago the bowling club “was going broke” but she believed that it was now possible for a viable club to emerge from the community asset.
The council agreed that it supported moves by a community interest group to buy the former Ryedale Indoor Bowls Club and that it would provide officer support to help RCLC to achieve grant funding, business planning and with legal advice.
The licence will enable the RCLC to operate the premises until December 26, subject to it submitting a suitable application including a business plan. Members of the RCLC will also look to raise money to buy the building from the council.