Council sports pitch review puts Eastville Park bowls club future in doubt

October 04 2020
Council sports pitch review puts Eastville Park bowls club future in doubt

THE future of Eastville Park's bowls club has been thrown into doubt after a city council report said it would consider using it for non-sports purposes.

Other sports pitch users at council-owned parks could also face increases in charges, says a report to the ruling cabinet.

Under the Bristol Future Parks process the council is inviting third parties, including sports clubs, to operate and maintain facilities themselves, as it seeks to make sporting provision in its open spaces “cost neutral”.

But a report to a cabinet meeting taking place tomorrow says that where there are no takers, charges will be hiked.

It says Eastville Park and St George Park bowls facilities and the Ardagh Sports Centre bowls green will be “incorporated into the Bristol Future Parks process without a condition that they will continue to be used only for sport”.

The club, based at the wartime Nissen hut near the play area, is currently being run by the Friends of Eastville Park group, which has submitted its own proposal to the council over the future of the site.

The council says it is inviting 'expressions of interest' in taking over all sports facilities at Eastville Park and Begbrook Green Park, off Begbrook Lane in Broomhill, although the future of bowls at Begbrook, and at Canford Park and Netham Park, is expected to be secured by agreeing a lease with the existing occupiers.

Users of football and cricket pitches could see costs increase, with rents depending on whether current or new providers take over their running from the council.

The report says: “For facilities where expressions of interest are not received and they continue to be operated by the council, the hire costs will reflect the real cost of maintenance, with the principle that pitches will be cost neutral to the council.”

A public consultation document last year said footballers could have to pay four times the current amount of roughly £2 per person.

Bowls club members could see their costs rise three-and-a-half times, while cricketers faced stumping up seven times what they currently pay.

The proposals before cabinet members are the result of a consultation into three options – increased users’ costs, passing the control of pitches from the authority to third parties and suggestions from the public.

Sixty-one per cent backed the second option with only 22 per cent supporting increased fees.

Any increased fees will be used to cover the costs of day-to-day and building maintenance, with a lump sum of capital investment available to help secure funding from other agencies to improve the pitches and greens.

Council papers say: “Bristol has a large number of poor grass playing pitches and a significant number of these are in council ownership and on parks land.

These pitches are supported by an ageing stock of changing rooms and pavilions, reflecting a long period of under or no investment.

There is a desire from sport funding bodies to improve facilities, and the improvement of grass pitches has been identified as a priority in the Football Foundation’s Football Facility Plan for Bristol.

New operating clubs or organisations operating facilities would be required to enter into full repairing lease arrangements on buildings and full maintenance lease or licence arrangements on pitches.

Further engagement work took place with affected bowls clubs.”

About £550,000 of council money would be invested to upgrade pitches and to pay for contracts to transfer them to operators, with the council’s current annual £200,000 upkeep costs reducing to zero.

Oldbury Court will still have pitches for football and cricket, while expressions of interest are invited for the following pitches:

Arnall Drive playing fields

Aston Vale playing fields

Begbrook Green Park

Canford Park

Dorian Road

Dundridge Farm playing fields

Eastville Park

Greville Smyth Park

Kings Head Land Park

Netham Park

Redcatch Park

Wellington Hill

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service