The long-running battle to save Ryedale Indoor Bowls Club from being sold to property developers has ended in victory for local campaigners.
Around 50 people packed into the council chamber at Ryedale House, Malton, on Thursday, to watch as Ryedale District Council rubber-stamped a move which will see the building off Scarborough Road, Norton, handed over to the community.
Councillors unanimously backed the ambitious plans from Ryedale Community Leisure Centre (RCLC) to create a community hub that will become home to Ryedale Bowls Club, Dance Expression School of Dance, Brooklyn Nursery and The Function Suite, a company which will cater for birthday parties, wedding receptions and more.
“I am absolutely delighted that Ryedale District Council finally saw the sense in agreeing to sell the building to a community group who will bring it back to life as a fantastic facility that will bring long term benefits to the community,” said campaigner Di Keal, who is also a member of Ryedale District Council.
The future of the bowls club building had been up in the air ever since the council’s Tory group, in September 2012, used its majority to recommend that it should be sold - despite the objections of their political opponents. They justified the move by saying the building was underused and costing the taxpayer £27,500 in lost rent.
But that decision sparked uproar from people across Norton and Ryedale and the creation of the RCLC group who began recruiting business partners that could help generate the cash needed to buy the building, estimated at £400,000.
The plan, approved by the council on Thursday, will see the authority receive £230,000 in capital immediately, a further £10,000 – with interest – over the next 12 years with the remaining £50,000 shortfall coming from unallocated cash reserves of the council.
To help fund the move, Dance Expression said they would pay £16,000 rent per year, Brooklyn Nursery £10,000, Ryedale Bowling Club £12,000 and The Function Suite £10,000, rising to £12,000 after one year.
The scheme was deemed to be preferable to other options by Martin Nicholson, an agent with Sheffield-based estate agents Brownill Vickers, who had been charged by the council with finding the best sale offer.
Cllr Keal, one of the leading members of RCLC, said after the meeting: “It has been hard work getting to this point – from registering the building as a Community Asset through to funding the bid – but I am convinced that with our new tenants, who are incredibly enthusiastic about the project, alongside indoor bowling we have come up with a win-win situation and the building has a very bright future.
“I would like to pay tribute to the committee for all its work, especially our chairman John Harrison who has worked incredibly hard to pull together a funding package alongside his right hand man, Jim Everitt.
“I would also like to thank my colleagues on Norton Town Council who applied to register the building as a Community Asset which really got the ball rolling and each and everyone of the bowlers and other supporters who have stuck with us over the past months and believed in what we have now achieved.
She added: “We are all looking forward to seeing the building open and being well used later this year.”