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Gainsborough bowls facility faces closure despite petition to save it

Gainsborough’s indoors bowls hall looks set to close despite a 2,000-strong petition to save the facility.

West Lindsey District Council has voted to reject a petition to save the indoor bowls club at a meeting last night, Monday April 9.

The bowling hall at West Lindsey Leisure Centre will be turned into a health and wellbeing hub as part of the district council’s £1.4 million revamp of the facility.

And the plan means changes to the bowls hall to make way for the hub.

At a meeting of the full council in Gainsborough, councillors voted by a margin of 23 to four to reject the petition’s demands, with one abstention.

The petition asked the council to: “Reconsider the closure of the purpose built bowls hall which gives so many residents of Gainsborough and the surrounding district the chance to continue their hobby providing exercise mentally and physically, competitiveness, a social life, comradery and friendship that the bowls club provides”.

The bowls hall has operated at the leisure centre since 1990 and the club say it is used all year round.

Linda Grocock, a member of the club, previously said during the campaign to save it: “We feel this is discriminating against old people and we hope the council rethinks what they are doing.

“Of course we want a club for everyone, but it’s got to be inclusive to everyone.”

Iris Mallen, from Torksey said: “There’s not a lot that elderly people can go to.

“It’s a leisure centre that’s supposed to be for everybody.”

The petition received the support of Councillor Trevor Young, Liberal Democrat ward member for Gainsborough South West, who raised a motion asking the council to temporarily suspend the decision and carry out a further consultation exercise.

Councillor Young said: “There’s strong public support – it’s not just these bowlers, it’s strong public support about the closure. Such a significant number cannot be wrong. The council has to review its decision.

“I find it difficult to understand that with such a large facility we couldn’t combine the bowls club with the health and wellbeing centre.”

The district council said that the hall is empty for the majority of the year as the bowls club only used it during winter months.

They also said that talks had been ongoing to find a suitable nearby alternative venue and that bowling will continue as part of the hub.

The health and wellbeing hub will provide traditional leisure and sporting opportunities as well as weight management, smoking cessation, diabetes control, illness and injury rehabilitation, GP referral scheme and cardia rehabilitation.

Leader of West Lindsey District Council Jeff Summers said: “These kind of decisions are not taken lightly but as a district council we have to give a service for all residents to provide value for money for taxpayers.

“We are taking responsibility for leisure in the district. The bowls hall is a vast space which has been underutilised.

“The space will be transformed into a health and wellbeing hub.

“I believe that the current proposal delivers the objects set at the beginning of the project.

“To demonstrate openness and transparency to the process I have circulated all council members a schedule of the process and a complete resume of the offer presently available to allow bowling to continue in our facility, on new mats free of charge for one year beginning September 1 to all bowling members.

“I see this as a positive solution to increasing the bowling membership and securing the future of this beneficial and valued sporting activity. We recognise the benefits of bowling to our communities and constantly strive to meet everyone’s needs.”

Councillor Sheila Bibb, chairman of the Prosperous Communities Committee, added: “We have met on three occasions with the club so far. We have discussed the rationale for the decision. We have also emphasised our commitment to engage with the club after this meeting.

“We have offered solutions to provide transport to other facilities at Dunholme and Scunthorpe or free access to short mat bowls at the leisure centre for a year.

“The new contract will radically transform the leisure service and ensure that it is sustainable over the fifteen years of the contract.”