PARK permits for bowlers could rise to £45 this year, £20 less than previously proposed, in a move which could save the borough’s bowling leagues.

A total of £20,000 from the council’s public health reserves would be used to fund a phased hike in fees if Bolton Council accepts the cabinet’s recommendation.

But the full £65 fee still is expected to come into effect in April 2021.

Ken Holcroft, chairman of Bolton Park Veterans Amateur Bowls Association, was “grateful” for the “gesture” but warned of a mass exodus of bowlers should the fees rise to the full rate as planned.

He said: “It’s still an awful lot of money for pensioners and people in our situation. It’s only a gesture for this year.

“It’s still disappointing to think only four to five years ago, we were paying only £10 or £12.50.”

“Still, people will object to paying it. We know that, but I expect we won’t lose anywhere near the number of bowlers we would have lost at £65.”

Mr Holcroft said that some bowling club members have already indicated that they would not pay the full fee if it comes into effect.

Of the 15 clubs in Bolton’s two leagues, between five and seven teams said they would struggle to get enough players together with the £65 fee, according to Mr Holcroft.

He said: “We were really quite scared. We weren’t sure if we would be able to put enough fixtures on the table.

“Hopefully now, this is going to pacify the bulk of the players.”

The proposals to raise the price of park permits comes as Bolton Council tries to find £23.5m in savings over a two-year period.

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The local authority has looked to bowling greens to balance the books.

Town hall chiefs have issued options to bowling clubs using council-run greens across the borough to reduce running costs by £67,000.

The package of proposals initially included an increase of fees from £25 for the summer season to £65 per person.

On Monday, the cabinet proposed using money from the Public Health reserves to phase in the proposed increase in bowling fees to £45 in the first year and £65 in subsequent years.

Council leader David Greenhalgh said: “We have also listened to what representatives from bowling clubs are telling us and have put forward a proposal to mitigate the effects of the savings we have to find. This will give us the opportunity to discuss further the safeguarding of the sport for future generations with them.”

The council must ratify these recommendations at a town hall meeting on Wednesday, February 19.