PULLING funds for Bolton’s park bowling greens could mean an end to clubs across the town.

Bolton Council set out plans in its latest budget to reconsider its commitments to the town’s park teams, a decision which the chair of one of the borough’s largest associations says could have a ‘horrendous” impact on the sport.

Currently the majority of the clubs' amenities are funded by the authority, but Ken Holcroft, chair of the Bolton Parks Veterans Amateur Bowling Association, says no club would be able to fund itself independently. He was joined by around 80 members of the organisation to protest the plans.

The local authority wants to save money by handing ownership of bowling greens over to their users but it has lowered its saving target to £67,000 for the next two years.

This is down from £135,000 originally suggested at the end of last year before a consultation took place.

“It gets people out of the house, they’re are not sitting at home vegetating,” he said. “The health aspect is massively important. Where else can a 70 or 80-year-old person go out knowing that it’s safe to go and they are going to meet their friends?

“Bowling is an incredibly social sport, you will go down and there will be 20-30 people there and you will know half of them. It really is great fun.”

The cost of hiring contractors to upkeep the greens and clubhouses has been estimated at around £12,000 and some have suggested that the clubs could apply for grant funding, in the same way that many community groups are supported by charity or lottery grants. However, Mr Holcroft says the age of club members, many of whom are over 70, stops the groups from pursuing the funding process.

“At our age the people applying for the grants might not be the people collecting them,” he said

“It’s quite apparent that whilst the council say it’s very easy to get the grant funds that’s not the case at all.

“It’s about finding people who not only have the ability to apply for grants but also the incentive. I know people that have applied for grants and it’s a lot of work.”

He added: “The next issue is security, it’s not difficult to cut the padlock off a gate or jump a fence and then if we do get it, who would insure it.

“Plus, if we get all this equipment are we going to get a 70-year-old bloke to come down and mow the green? We just don’t have the staff to do it.”

Opposition leader, Cllr David Greenhalgh said the proposals raised "real concerns" about the future of clubs.

Along with his ward colleagues, Cllr Greenhalgh met with his local bowling club in Egerton, he said: "We had a very constructive meeting with our local bowling club which was also attended by the Assistant Director of Space from the Council, and we spoke about the pros and cons of any future proposals. Clearly there are many opportunities for clubs, if they choose to go down a route of self-management, in terms of accessing grants and outside funding, but once again it would be wrong for the Council to adopt a "one size fits all" approach."

However, he said he would oppose any proposals that would lead to closures and called on the council to offer full administrative support for the clubs in the early stages, should the proposals be implemented.

Cllr Nick Peel explained that the council will now take a phased approach which will start by identifying the clubs best placed to become self-sufficient.

The authority will then facilitate a handover to those clubs who could employ staff and apply for funding from various grants, according to the cabinet member.

He said: “It’s about putting the support in place for clubs to move to self-management and then reducing the budget accordingly.”