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Fresh hope for bowls centre
9:00am Wednesday 11th September 2013 in News
NEW hopes have been raised that Norton Bowls Centre could re-open – possibly by the middle of September – after owners Ryedale District Council agreed to grant a licence to one of two rival groups seeking to run it.
At the end of a lengthy debate at last Thursday’s council meeting, members agreed by a large majority that Ryedale Community Leisure Centre (RCLC) should be granted a licence to run the centre until the end of the year, as a result of Norton Town Council’s successful bid to have it registered as a community centre under the Government’s Localism Act.
Councillors representing RCLC and the rival group, Ryedale Indoor Bowls Centre (RIBC), put forward arguments, with Coun Di Keal (Liberal Democrat) a member of the RCLC steering group, saying it wanted not only to re-open the centre for bowling, but to make it a community facility for other organisations and commercial enterprises.
She said: “We have a draft business plan but we are not yet in a position to say where the funding is coming from.”
The district council wants to sell the centre for £400,000 to enable it to fund other projects.
Coun Keal said RCLC had put forward a practical solution. “I am not doing this other than for residents of Norton. It could reopen by the beginning of next week,” she said. “We have worked on a plan to have the centre operating much more than as a bowls centre.”
Coun Lindsey Burr (Lib Dem) said there was interest by several other organisations in using the centre.
“We have got to look at the long term,” she said, describing the RCLC bid as “a fantastic way forward”.
Criticism of the two groups for “fighting each other” were “deplored” by Coun Paul Andrews (Ind) accusing other councillors of “a conflict of personalities and possibly politics”.
He said: “The groups should work together for the common good and not get into political arguments.”
Coun John Clark (Lib) speaking for the RIBC, questioned whether the RLCL group had a constitution or cashflow plans.
He unsuccessfully moved that the issue should be referred to the council’s policy and resources committee for the two bids to be compared.
Coun Luke Ives (Con) said a great deal of work had been put into the RCLC bid and accused Coun Clark of trying to “hi-jack” its plans.
Coun Linda Cowling (Con), leader of the council, said that until it closed a few months ago the bowling club “was going broke”, but she believed it was now possible for a viable club to emerge from the community asset.
The council agreed to supportmoves by a community interest group to buy the former Ryedale Indoor Bowls Club and it would provide officer support to help RCLC to achieve grant funding, business planning and with legal advice. The licence will enable RCLC to operate the premises until December 26, subject to it submitting a suitable application including a business plan.
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