PLANS to almost triple fees for crown green bowlers on council-maintained greens have met with an angry response from those who play the sport.

One said the proposals, which would see playing fees rise from £25 for the summer season to £65 per person as denying pensioners ‘the only pleasure they have’.

If agreed, the proposals would make a contribution of £67,000 to the council’s budget as they prepare to make cuts of around £39M over the next two financial years.

Currently the majority of the clubs’ amenities are funded by the authority.

This year, due to the covid pandemic, bowling leagues were suspended along with council playing fees and activity at clubs was severely limited.

Clubs are hoping to resume the sport in the spring of 2021.

Other changes in the package include a new charge of £500 or £750 for the winter use of bowling huts, depending on the size and use of the building, and closure of the social building at Haslam Park.

The council also suggests stopping the maintenance of two second greens at Kearsley Park and Westhoughton Central Park.

In response to the consultation the council said they are considering a phased increase of the fees with the fee being £45 in the first year.

A consultation on bowling green proposals was held between Monday, January 27 and Friday, February 21 and the results have now been published.

326 responses were received via the consultation questionnaire and 140 people attended face to face sessions.

Bowlers were asked to say how the proposals would impact on them, any support they may need and if they could think of alternatives.

The two biggest factors coming out of the consultation were the financial cost and the effect on the health and wellbeing of older people.

Among the comments on health and wellbeing contained in the report were one person who said ‘it’s a form of exercise as well as company. It is a lifeline’.

Another said: “I need this recreation not only to keep me mobile, but also for my mental health.

“It means I can have company as well as gain exercise.

“I thought the wellbeing of people was a priority for the council.”

A third bowler told the council: “I am sure my father has lived much longer due to the social activities and physical side of bowling, hitting 85 last year.

“This just another example of what is clearly a valuable use of council tax is happily sacrificed if older people don’t cough up.”

The council’s response to these comments, was: “We recognise the physical and mental health benefits of its parks and green spaces for all residents of the borough and has made possible the phased implementation of the proposed fee increase for the use of council owned bowling greens by making available monies from the public health reserve.”

The increase in fees would affect bowlers at parks in Astley Bridge, Kearsley, Bradford Street, Longsight, Leverhulme Park, Thomasson Park , Darbishire Park, Mossbank Park, Doe Hey Park ,

Mytham Park, Egerton, Queens Park, Farnworth, Vale House, Stoneclough, Great Lever, Sunnyside Park, Haslam Park, Tonge, Heywood Park, Westhoughton and Jones Street, Horwich.

When the plans were first proposed council leader Cllr David Greenhalgh said that bowling ‘was an activity we wanted to keep in Bolton but that there might just be different ways of delivering the service’.

He added that the options on the table would see every club still having a bowling green and that ‘bowling greens have always been in the council’s remit and it’s right that should continue’.

The report will be considered by the executive member for environmental services at a meeting on Monday, December 7.

The council report invites him to ‘approve the final proposals, having due regard to the consultation feedback’.