Questions over bowls club sale

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QUESTIONS will be asked of the controversial decision to sell one of Norton’s key community facilities at Ryedale District Council’s meeting tomorrow night.

Opponents to the sale of Ryedale Indoors Bowls Centre have put forward 21 questions related to the proposal which could net the authority an estimated £400,000.

At the full council meeting in September, they had argued that the council should aim to find a tenant to take over the majority of the building and lease while allowing the bowls club to remain on site.

However Cllr Keith Knaggs, the leader of the council, said at the time that the bowls club is not as well used as it once was with membership down to 156 people,

He said it should be sold as the club is effectively costing the taxpayer £27,500 a year as the bowls club committee receives that amount in a discount on the £37,500 rent it is meant to pay the council annually.

Cllr Knaggs and his Conservative Party colleagues voted through the sale at the meeting.

But members of the Liberal Party, Liberal Democrats and Independent councillors will quiz the council officers, Cllr Knaggs and the chairmen of the different council committees about details surrounding the sale, the use of the indoor bowls club itself and wider sports strategy for Ryedale.

Questions range from whether Cllr Knaggs had seen the bowling club’s business plan prior to the vote being taken, through to how many hours or work have gone into the “sales process” since the meeting and “how does the sale of the bowls club site fit in with the Sports Strategy for Ryedale”

The total number of questions - 21 in total - is believed to be unprecedented for a full meeting of Ryedale District Council.

Cllr Elizabeth Shields told the Mercury: “We are very concerned about the decision that was made and believe that time should be given to allow the bowls club to continue and for Ryedale District Council to explore more possibilities in order to find a tenant for the greater part of the building.

“We think there is plenty of time to go out and advertise to find a tenant to take over the wider part of the building.”

In response, Cllr Knaggs said: “The point here is that we need to realize value from our community assets and it’s questionable whether subsidizing what its own chairman describes as a small business with a bowls club attached is the best way of doing that.”

And Tom Nairn, chairman of Ryedale Indoors Bowls Club, said: “It’s a sad day for the community but these things happen - councils make decision sometimes in haste, sometimes they shoot themselves in the foot.

“At the moment, we have accepted the decision because we have employees, sponsors, clients and customers for next year who have cancelled and we have no more income after April so we are up the creek without a paddle.

“They shot themselves in the foot by the bold announcement of the decision and all the functions during the bowling close season have disappeared so I don’t know whether there’s any way back now.”

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