Bowls club facing £18,000+ bill or likely closure

A bowling club in Horfield is facing closure – just two years before its 100th anniversary.

Ardagh Bowls Club has operated at its green on Horfield Common since 1926 but a change in management of the site means they face an £18,000+ bill or likely closure.

With just 40 members, and numbers having declined since the uncertainty over its future began, the club say they cannot afford to pay the higher fees.

The site, with a cafe, tennis courts, gardens and meeting rooms, was handed to the Ardagh Community Trust by Bristol City Council in 2016 after the council decided it would no longer subsidise leisure activities in parks.

ACT was awarded the licence for the bowling club last year as it was not part of the original lease.

The trust says the bowling club decided not to be part of the original project and since then ACT has tried to secure funding to pay for vital work which would enable the facility to be used safely.

ACT is now asking the bowls club for an annual £12,000 fee to maintain the green and a further £6,000 for remedial work on the site as well as other costs.

The bowls club says the green maintenance fee is too high and the work could be done for around £6,000.

Bowls club spokesman Martin Garrett said: “We believe we are being eased out. With 40 members, we simply cannot come up with £18,000. We have already lost seven members due to the uncertainty.

“All we want is the chance to negotiate with them but the Trust declined. Our only option now may be to book the green from the ACT at £10/hour.

ACT was approached for comment but in a post on social media, a spokesperson said: “ACT offered the green to the bowls club for sole use for competitive lawn bowling for the 2024 season at cost and this offer was declined.

“The bowls club is a private club which ACT is not permitted to subsidise; ACT’s offer to the club was based on recovering only actual expenditure on the green.

“ACT will continue to facilitate social bowling but cannot subsidise competitive bowling. ACT intends to continue to make the green available for social bowling and complementary activities (e.g yoga, tai-chi) through 2024, while Trustees consider its long-term future.”