I AM very concerned for the local community of Norton and the surrounding area, now that Ryedale District Council has decided to close Ryedale Bowls Centre next April.

I cannot imagine that there was much consultation before the decision was made. Everyone I speak to finds it difficult to understand why such an important community venue and sports centre is being closed.

The centre is used by many organisations and individuals. It has a wide range of facilities including a meeting room, restaurant and dance floor, spacious bar with comfortable seating, as well as a full size bowling green, which I understand is one of the best in the north of England.

In effect, this building performs the functions of a village hall for the residents of Norton.

The membership is not as good as it was in 1987 when the venue was opened, but with 133 members, it is still one of the best-supported sports clubs in the area.

Ryedale council owns the basic building but the bowling green and the facilities and fittings were originally paid for by a very generous local benefactor, the late Henry Richardson.

Since then, the club members have refurbished and modernised the building. Repairs and maintenance have always been from club funds. There has been no expense to Ryedale district council since the place was built, and rent paid since then will have easily covered the initial cost plus good interest on capital.

The present rent is £10,000.

Reasonable for a building that size, but considering it is a community centre for Norton, which is short of such facilities, Ryedale District Council should probably not be charging rent at all.

To sell off such an asset would be sacrilege to Norton and the wider community. A figure of £400,000 for the sale has been mentioned. I think this could be very difficult to realise in the present climate.

If the building does not sell very readily and possibly for a much lesser figure, it will be another embarrassment for Ryedale council.

I am sure that the ruling Conservative group on the council can do without such an outcome and should be considering their electors. The money Ryedale is likely to get for the facility will make very little difference to the rates, but a lot of difference to the many people who regularly use the venue.

I think this is a decision which should be reconsidered before it is too late. Some business has already been lost, wedding receptions and meetings have been cancelled.

Come on Conservative councillors, reverse your decision as soon as possible and regain some muchneeded popularity at very little cost to the community.

John Harrison Chairman of Settrington Parish Council, Settrington