Fears that more bowls greens in Sunderland could close due to council budget cuts

Mike Davis chairman and president of Sunderland Indoor Bowling Club.
Mike Davis chairman and president of Sunderland Indoor Bowling Club.
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Bowls chiefs say they fear for the future of the sport on Wearside after council bosses admitted savings need to be made in the face of huge budget cuts.

Sunderland City Council has held meetings in recent months with bowls clubs across the area to come up with new plans for the 2017 season.

Already, four outdoor bowling greens have been closed; LNER in Hendon, Barley Mow, Services which is at the bottom end of Barnes Park, and Mowbray Park.

Players fear that as many as up to 11 greens could close although councillors say no final decisions have yet been made.

Mike Davis, chairman and president of Sunderland Indoor Bowls Club and chairman of Barnes Park Outdoor Bowls Club, says he is concerned what lies ahead for bowls players with concerns that members of clubs will have to pay more in fees to finance the maintenance of facilities through leasing the greens.

“The council have been very non-committal about things up to now,” said Mr Davis.

“There have been various sums of money bandied about between £2,000 and £4,000 for the maintenance of grounds and if this is the case and they have to be leased we might as well give up as very clubs have that type of money.

“Simple mathematics tells you we would have to charge £40 to £50 to each member.”

Mr Davis has called on council bosses to provide a new indoor site since Crowtree Leisure Centre closed in 2013.

“They say on the one hand that we have to increase sporting activity for people getting on in years,” he added.

“Bowls is a gentler sport which is good for exercise but if they are closing grounds then people are not going to get that exercise.

“There is a huge appetite for the game of bowls and a lot of clubs across the city.

“If they close 11 greens it would virtually destroy Sunderland and District Bowling Association Leagues.”

The new proposals, which council bosses say no decisions have yet been made, are due to be outlined at a meeting on Tuesday, June 19.

Speaking about the cuts, Coun Michael Mordey, portfolio holder for city services, said: “While we very much recognise the wider benefits of people participating in sport, Sunderland has been hit extremely hard by Government cuts to our budgets as a result of which we are having to look at reviewing, reshaping and remodelling all of our services.

“After seeing £207million cut from our budget over the last six years and further projected cuts of £115million by 2020, it is inevitable this is going to have a significant impact to the services we provide especially when we need to save £46million this year alone.

“Officers have been working with representatives of all of the bowls clubs playing on council maintained greens as well as representatives of the Bowls Alliance since April to look at the savings we need to make.

“A number of meetings have already taken place and more are planned over the coming weeks to collectively come up with proposals for bowling provision for the 2017 season that can be put forward for the council to consider.

“At this stage no decisions have been made on future provision.”