Bowling tournament safe but concerns over future

Over-55s bowlers at the north bowling greens in Skegness.
Over-55s bowlers at the north bowling greens in Skegness.
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Bowlers who organise a competition thought to be worth £250,000 to the Skegness economy are breathing a sigh of relief after talks to secure the event - at least for this year.

The future of bowling, which has been a tradition in Skegness for more than 50 years, remains uncertain – not only because the fees to hold competitions are expected to rise, but closure or transfer of control of greens across the district is being considered by East Lindsey District Council (ELDC) as part of the draft transformation programme.

Under the programme, town councils could be asked to take on responsibility of bowling greens to help the authority achieve £6 million savings over the next four years.

Skegness hosts four major bowls tournaments - the Over 55s in June, the English Bowling Federation (EBF) tournaments in June and September and the English Bowling Association (EBA) tournament in July - attracting hundreds of people to the resort outside peak season.

Over 55s tournament organisers say they have been worried since last year when they faced a hike in fees.

Following talks with the charity Magna Vitae, which provides leisure facilities for ELDC, a fee of £400 was agreed. After last week’s talks the fee remains at £400, but it is expected to rise next 
year.

Magna Vitae’s reason for wanting an increase in fees was: “This tournament is run on a commercial basis and as Magna Vitae is a charity we expect the organisers to pay a hire fee that covers our costs.”

This week a spokesman said: “The Over 55s tournament organisers and the Trust recently met and have provisionally agreed support and hire fees going forward.”

Volunteers Ian and Kath Morris, of Skegness Forshore Bowls Club who organise the Over 55s tournament, say they welcome the freeze on fees, but are still concerned.

Kath said: “How can they say it is commercial when we are all volunteers and the event is non-profit making.

“All we can say is the event is safe this year, but we can’t aford a big hike in fees. We are also worried what will happen as a result of ELDC’s draft transformation programme.

“ELDC still looks after the greens but if the town council took them on would they have the expertise or be able to afford to keep them in tip-top condition.

“Our competition is worth £250,000 to the local economy, but we know that Great Yarmouth is waiting in the wings to take it off us should we not be able to afford to hold it in the future.”

Dave Woods, secretary of the EBF, said they have used the greens at Skegness for over 50 years and have not been informed of a hike in fees.

He said: “Our national championships in August bring in an estimate of over 3,000 people to the resort for the week’s bowling.

“A few years ago we also payed to have the toilets installed into the changing rooms.

“I am sure the hoteliers and businesses in the resorts would not be pleased if the council closed the greens, as the town would lose business brought in by these tournaments.”

Residents can still view the draft consulation programme, which also affects paddling pools such as the Fairy Dell, by visiting www.e-lindsey.gov.uk/facingthe
challenge. To comment email communications@e-lindsey.gov.uk