The future of Watford Indoor Bowls Club is under threat because of a dispute between its members and Watford Borough Council (WBC).
When the club’s 25 year lease expired in 2016, officials had expected Watford Borough Council to offer its members a new lease, as legislation dictates. However, the lease can be refused if there is evidence of non-payment of rent or if the landlords want to reclaim the building for their own use.
Club officials admit they had struggled with the rent but say they entered into an agreement with WBC to abate the rent for 22 of the club’s 25 years. However they say WBC is now accusing them of non-payment of rent which, if proven, could mean they are evicted from their current site.
WatfordNews understands that, over the last 25 years, the club has paid over £1 million in rent, £75k in rates as well as a maintenance contract of £85,000.
At a meeting at the end of January, members voted to reject a new five year lease with a break after three and four years, meaning that the future of the club has been thrown into doubt.
A member who was at the meeting held at the end of January said they felt compelled to reject WBC’s offer and said the club has launched a court case asking for a new lease for 15 years.
He said: “They don’t know what they want to do with it. If we lose the club, which has around 370 members, the only other indoor bowls club is supported by a private club – Herts Indoor Bowling Club – which is nowhere near a bus route. The club has a bar, good atmosphere and restaurant and keeps people out of doctors surgeries by offering them exercise.
“Life without it would be a lot poorer.”
Elected mayor of Watford Dorothy Thornhill said the bowls club were robbing tax payers in order to maintain their private club for a very few people, many of whom do not live in Watford.
She said: “This is a scandal. The site could be used to provide a new fabulous popular facility for use by many at no cost to residents. We have tried over several years to sort this out and have been met with denial and reluctance to face facts.
“Every single member could join the great indoor club in the middle of the Cassiobury Estate, recently refurbished at no cost to taxpayers , which would be a great boost to their membership and free up this tired old facility to be changed into something wanted and popular “