Members of Watford Indoor Bowls Club (WIBC) which is based in Garston have called on the town’s elected mayor to explain why she wants to close their club down.
Last month, GarstonNews revealed that the club, which opened at Woodside Playing Fields in 1991, was in dispute with Watford Borough Council (WBC) over non-payment of rent which, if proven, could mean they are evicted from the site.
WBC say the club has found it difficult to pay rent and, as there is a falling number of members who use the private members club, who are not Watford residents, it is unfair to expect Watford council taxpayers to subsidise it.
John Bates is club president and said WIBC pays a higher level of rent than any other bowls club in the country. He said over the last 25 years, the club has paid an average of £37,500 plus vat over the last 25 years which he believes is the highest rate of any bowls club in the country.
He said: “Herts County Council are pushing facilities like ours. Clubs like ours keep people out of hospital. A lot of our members are widows and widowers and they come here to make new friends. We’d like to know what sort of splendid new facility they are going to open and they really should be looking after the elderly.”
He explained: “We have 15 leagues with ten to 11 teams in each and about 500 people coming through the doors each week. We’re open to all the people who want to join us and we train on a Friday afternoon.”
John said the club has won backing in its case from across the town. He said that although the buildings are 25 to 30 years old, the club has a maintenance contractor and regular work is carried out during the summer months to keep the buildings in a good condition.”
WIBC was offered a five year lease at a reduced rent to give members time to try out the other indoor bowls club in the town but reportedly received no response from the club regarding the offers made.
But at a meeting at the end of January, members voted to reject a new five new year lease with a break after three and four years and let the council know of their decision by email.
John says he believes most of the club’s members will not go to Herts Bowls Club on Bellmount Wood Avenue and said that he believed, with an influx of new members, the rates will go up making unaffordable to many people. He said he would like to see some element of bowling in the new facility but stressed that all he and the other members want is for the situation to be quickly resolved.
He said: “Why do you want to close the club down. For some people it’s the sole activity they get and its not a money making concern. They’ve never come forward and said any reasons.
Elected Mayor of Watford Dorothy Thornhill said: “Firstly, Watford is really lucky to have several venues for bowls enthusiasts, including another indoor facility in Bellmount Wood Avenue, Cassiobury, and five clubs dedicated to outdoor bowls. This is much better than in other boroughs, most of which don’t have any indoor facilities.
“Sadly we have to face the fact that Watford Indoor Bowls Club is not thriving. We’ve been very fair in giving them plenty of time to turn things around but they haven’t been able to.
“We need to plan for the future and the truth is this facility could offer so much more to Watford residents. This could be something really modern that isn’t currently available and that could appeal to a lot more people.”
Picture Courtesy of Hoss Photography