Bowlers in Calderdale fear players being priced out of the game despite council pledge over fees

Bowlers in Calderdale say cancelling planned price increases for use of greens is not enough to allay fears over participation levels.
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Calderdale Council says price increases for the usage of council-owned bowling greens won’t take place next season.There are ten council bowling greens across the borough, which are maintained twice-weekly by council staff throughout the April to September bowling season.Charges for usage usually increase each year, but fees for the 2023 season will instead only increase in line with inflation, calculated using the Consumer Price Index figure from next February.The council say the decision takes into account the benefits of playing bowls for people’s physical and mental health.Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, Coun Jenny Lynn, said: “We understand that many people are experiencing the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis and that both individuals and local organisations are facing a financial squeeze at the moment.“As this year’s bowling season comes to an end, we’ve written to clubs to let them know that the scheduled increase in fees for next season will not be going ahead. We hope to support both clubs and members and encourage participation in bowling - recognising its many health and wellbeing benefits.”

But responding to the decision, Jenny Walmsley, secretary of Spring Hall Bowling Club and spokesperson for the council greens, said: "All the council greens got an email around two weeks ago saying they were not putting up the green fees to what they had planned, which was £3,000, from £2,500 but they would be going up in line with inflation, which at the moment is ten per cent.

"That would bring the fees up to around £2,700, £2,750.

Bowlers in action at Ackroydon Victoria Bowls ClubBowlers in action at Ackroydon Victoria Bowls Club
Bowlers in action at Ackroydon Victoria Bowls Club

"We cannot see inflation coming down at the moment.

"What the council have said sounds a little contradictory as Jenny Lynn is saying they are not going up at all, so we are still not sure if the fees are going up or not.

"The council greens struggle to pay the fees, which makes membership at many of the clubs expensive.

"The council do not include any feed in the fees that they charge so the clubs have to fund that themselves, and to keep a green in good condition it should be fed twice a year.

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"The council say they want to keep bowling greens going for the well being of people, but yet they are still making it hard for the clubs by charging as much as they do.”

Mark Holden, who runs all the competitions in the Halifax and Sowerby Bridge League, said: "I have to get 22 competitions in a year and a lot of the greens I can't use, like park greens, because they're not up to standard.

"So I have to send them to normal bowling clubs, who pay around £2,500 a year for a greenkeeper.

"They're in immaculate condition.

"The council are wanting £2,500 from all the park greens to cut it twice a week, which doesn't include feed.

"They're saying they're not putting it up because they appreciate there's a cost of living crisis, but they spoil it by saying it will go up ten per cent, which is another £250.

"They're not encouraging people to play, they're discouraging them.

"I've spoken to a few park greens, who are all saying it's absolutely ridiculous what they have to pay, and the conditions they have to play on, there's no love or care there.

"The council say it's about mental well being and keeping people fit, but they're spoiling it for everybody.

"Akroyd Park used to have two bowling greens but there's an allotment there now.

"They used to have the best teams in Yorkshire but it got shut down.

"Instead of putting it up, they should drop it by £750 because people can't afford to play."

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