Indoor bowlers have been told there will be no facilities for them in Huddersfield’s new £36 million leisure centre.

Kirklees Council’s Cabinet yesterday  officially ruled out a bowls court in favour of more gym space.

It comes just weeks after the bowlers were assured they still featured in the plans.

The Cabinet’s decision was met with grim-faced silence after bowlers had spoken of their dismay that the first they knew of what was happening was when they read it in the Examiner.

Bowlers were angered at a lack of consultation from both Kirklees Council and Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL), neither explaining why the bowlers had not been informed or consulted.

Marie Nicholson, of Meltham, said: “We’re very disappointed and back to square one. We were assured until last week that the contractors were working to the original plans and those plans included bowling.

“How can it offer less than the current sports centre? You’re letting so many people down,” she told Cabinet members.

Damien Talbot, secretary at Huddersfield Indoor Bowling Club, said the council was turning away people aged 14-90, adding: “We have ticked every box of the development plan KAL asked of us.

 

“We sought and got sponsorship for our T-shirts and equipment on the proviso that we were going into the new sports centre.”

Keith Webb, a badminton player, said the council was trying to compete with 20 private fitness providers rather than serving its population, while Jim Gillan, also a badminton player, feared the decision to reject the bowlers would set a precedent.

Clr Cahal Burke, who was told in March the provision for bowlers was unchanged, said: “It all seems very underhand and that is disappointing.”

Clr Peter O’Neill, Cabinet member for leisure, said: “We have to take into account the financial return... profit of the sites is used to cross-subsidise those sites which don’t make (profit).”

Fellow Cabinet member Clr Jean Calvert said: “This is the first decision of many that we’re going to have to make that people won’t like. It’s not that we want to do it, but that we have to do it. It’s a sad decision to make.”

Council leader, Clr David Sheard, added: “We will look for somewhere else for this facility. But let’s not make any bones about it, finances are a big part of the decision.”

Instead of the dedicated space there will be a larger gym and separate space for exercise classes when it opens in 2015.

In the Cabinet report by David Morby, head of active and creative communities, fitness memberships are said to have increased from around 6,500 members in 2008 to over 21,500 in March.

He says the new £36m centre will not be able to accommodate all current fitness users without using the space earmarked for the bowlers.

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