New base for closure stricken Wisbech Hudson Indoor Bowls Club could be empty centre in Long Sutton
PUBLISHED: 12:56 31 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:05 31 January 2019
An empty bowls centre in Long Sutton could be an “ideal alternative” to save the Hudson Indoor Bowls Club from collapse after their hall at the town’s leisure centre will be turned into a gym.
Angry members say that they have “explored every avenue” to try and stop the closure of the club since Fenland District Council [FDC] sold their 15-year lease for their four leisure centres in Wisbech, Chatteris, March and Whittlesey to Freedom Leisure.
It meant that the bowls club at the Hudson would have to go as part of the deal.
Members discussed setting up a sub-group in another local club, other locations to rent and any potential funding on offer at an options appraisal meeting held with Living Sport on December 18.
Although the Indoor Bowls Centre in Long Sutton, which closed 12 months ago, may “not prove financially viable” it could be a temporary option.
“This could be a potential solution for the use of this space on a temporary basis, with some form of subsidy, allowing the time for a more local base to be established,” Simon Fairhall, Living Sport chief executive, said at the meeting.
“However the structure of the club and the revenue cost requirements even before a bowl is bowled (let alone the ongoing operation) is likely to make this option very difficult to deliver.”
The venue is on the market for a lease around £39,000 a year and is eight miles from Wisbech – about a 15 minute drive.
Clubs at Whittlesey and King’s Lynn were also considered as being an option for “younger, stronger players, with their own transport” to join.
Funding options were said to be “achievable” for a new indoor green, while short mat bowls – although “clearly stated by members as not for them” – could be an alternative for those in rural villages.
One member from the Hudson Bowls Club, posting on social media, spoke of their upset over the situation.
They stated: “We’re all very upset and angry over what is happening at the bowls club.
“We looked at deeds but there was nothing in our favour to appeal the decision made by FDC.
“Long Sutton is not derelict – far from it as the photos recently posted online show. Yes work needs to be done, and of course, if we went down that route, either on a short or long term basis, any lease would be subject to the roof being watertight and the building being fit for purpose.
“There would probably be more financial assistance available when we are able to put a plausible business plan to them [FDC].”
Around half a million pounds is set to be ploughed into the Hudson Leisure Centre in Wisbech to create a state-of-the-art fitness facility.
It would see the hall – currently used by the Hudson Bowls Club – transformed into a gym, dance and spinning room.
Bosses at FDC said that the redevelopment would see a significant leap in revenue to £140,000 a year from £17,000 if proposals were to get the go ahead.
It comes as leisure centres across Fenland were costing the council around £250,000 to £300,000 a year, as running costs were not being met.
Freedom Leisure took over the running of the centres on December 4.
Mr Fairhall added that “further investigation be pursued particularly in the event of a long term option being identified” for the bowls club.
“It is considered likely that all the other local clubs would accept new members for season 2019-2020 and that despite a strong indication that members would not join other clubs it is likely that some would if an alternative venue was not available in Wisbech,” he said.