Axe-threat bowling club won’t roll over!

Wymott Bowling Club members are unhappy with the sale of their green at auction at the end of this month
Wymott Bowling Club members are unhappy with the sale of their green at auction at the end of this month

The future of a village’s only community facility hangs in the balance as a row has broken out over the sale of its site.

Wymott Bowling Club is currently for sale and Chorley Council was looking to buy it from the Ministry of Justice and lease it back to the bowlers.

But that plan now looks in doubt – and council bosses are looking at what they can do legally to protect the site.

The club was told the reserve price was £50,000 and the council agreed to enter negotiations to buy it.

But they say Justice Secretary Michael Gove has now confirmed the site has been valued at £100,000.

It is now set to be sold at auction at the end of February if a deal is not reached.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The public would rightly expect us to try and achieve the best possible value for money for the taxpayer when disposing of surplus land.

“As no bid matching the value of this piece of land has been received, we have taken the decision to sell at auction later this month.”

But council leader Coun Alistair Bradley has accused the Ministry of Justice of putting profit over its social obligation.

He said: “I’m appalled at the stance of the Government in not supporting this valued and vital community asset.

“I understand that they want to get the best value when they dispose of property surplus to requirements, but ‘best value’ is not just about money, it is also about meeting social obligations and the needs of a community.

“This is a very rural area with no community facilities other than what the bowling club provides. It’s the hub of the village, serving local residents not just its members, as a place to meet up and socialise.”

He also questioned the valuation of the site.

Coun Bradley said: “When you consider the cost of demolishing and removing the old club house which is beyond repair, alongside the fact the land is allocated for leisure use, there is really very little value in the land at all.

“From our point of view, the club would undertake the demolition of the former club house, we would rent the site to them with the proviso it’s to be used as a bowling club and community venue, it would protect an area of green space from development and vitally, we would retain a much-needed community facility in a very rural area.”

And he said the council is looking at what it can do to protect the site.

He said: “We are looking at the moment at what we can do legally to prevent the sale going ahead.

“We are seriously considering having some kind of review on what they are doing because we believe it’s wrong and it’s acting against the public interest.”

Chorley’s MP Lindsay Hoyle is also involved and said Prisons Minister Andrew Selous had agreed to have a look at the issue.

He said: “We have had a letter from Michael Gove saying it’s worth this much more but we are saying we need some common sense.

“The Prisons Minister has gone away to look at this.

“I would have thought that money in the bank is worth more than speculation from estate agents so hopefully common sense will prevail.”

Hoping a deal can be reached to secure the future of the club are the bowlers, led by chairman Rita Kitching.

They have offered to give £10,000 to the council to help pay for the site, after raising money through garden parties, coffee mornings and other events.

She said: “We have raised this money through the sweat and toil of our members. People have opened their houses for garden parties and raised £500 or £600 a time.

“To get it snatched from us at the 11th hour would be absolutely devastating. I’m sure that Chorley Council won’t let that happen.”