- The club currently has 45 members and shares the facilities with the Royal British Legion
By Andrew Atkinson
Cash-strapped 117 year-old Rickmansworth Bowls Club fears closure, due to finances.
Three Rivers District Council has informed the historic club it was not willing to subsidise them any longer, which lead to Club secretary Nick Bessant stating if an agreement cannot be reached it will not survive.
The 117-year-old club, which plays in Northway, has been paying £4,500 annual rent to the council, with the council taking responsibility for costs including maintenance to the green and clubhouse.
This year the club were told the agreement had come to an end and that members would have to pay £20,000 a year to remain.
A option tabled is to pay rent of £1,000 annually with the bowls club paying for the upkeep of the clubhouse and maintain the green.
The club currently has 45 members and shares the facilities with the Royal British Legion, who are also concerned the clubhouse may be in need of immediate repairs.
They may be forced to agree to a lease, that becomes unaffordable, resulting in the gradual demise of the club.
“It’s been very stressful from the club’s point of view. We were told from the outset that subsidisation had to stop. But we think the council should subsidise to a lesser extent. We also can’t agree to a lease without knowing all of the costs.
“The club would therefore like the council to offer a third option. This would be a lease for the green whereby the club maintains the playing surface for a relatively small rent, and a licence for the clubhouse whereby the club pays a rent nearer the previous amount and the council pays for the upkeep of the clubhouse, including any future repairs.
“This option would give the bowls club some security as it would know exactly how much it needs to pay each year,” said Mr Bessant.
The option has been dismissed by the council and Mr Bessant has urged officers to reconsider.
The bowls club are being supported by Rickmansworth councillor Paula Hiscocks. Members have also created a petition.
Cllr Hiscocks said: “The council have to do their due diligence but on the other hand, this type of activity is perfect during Covid. It is outdoor and socially distanced, and helps the older population.
“It seems like such a strange time for the council to do this when we should be encouraging this activity. I’ve not had accurate bills for services.”
Three Rivers District Council issued a statement which claimed Rickmansworth Bowls Club has chosen an option to take on the running of the the with the associated costs.
Mr Bessant has denied the club has agreed any new deal with the council.
The council has also said it has offered the club use of a number of pieces of grounds maintenance equipment and a transitional grant for the first two years as an assistance package to help adjust to the new lease arrangements.
The statement added council costs in keeping both Rickmansworth Bowls Club and Mill End Bowls Club has increased considerably over the years, with costs now considerably exceeding rental income.
Cllr Matthew Bedford, lead member for resources at the council, said: “The council is keen to work with the club to find a way forwards that enables them to continue to operate and provide benefits to the local community while at the same time making sure the cost to taxpayers is affordable and more open and transparent.”