Bowling club supporters launch petition against rent increase

SUPPORTERS of Craven Bowling Club in Skipton have launched a petition in an attempt to protect its future.

In the past, Craven District Council, which owns the green behind Skipton Town Hall, has suggested it could provide valuable parking spaces.

And although the council has said it now has no intention of turning it into a car park, it wants to increase its current £500 per year rent when it comes up for review next year.

Landlady of The Albion pub, Sera Brook, said the 130-year-old club was an important part of the town's heritage.

"They said they were going to turn it into car parking spaces, and when faced with public anger, they backtracked. Now, they want to increase the rent. We suspect they are trying to put the club under pressure and get them out that way."

She added: "They're just putting commercial interests before residents."

Vivienne Abell, captain of the club's Saturday League, said the club attracted lots of visitors who spent money in the shops.

"This is one of the last green areas in the centre of Skipton. It's a private facility, but we're happy to open it up. The club doesn't cost the council - we maintain it, we look after it. All they do is collect the money and now they want more for doing nothing."

But council leader, Cllr Chris Knowles-Fitton (Cons, Barden Fell) has stressed there is no intention to evict the club, but there was an issue with what it paid.

Asked about its future at a recent meeting of the policy committee, he described the current £500 per year as a "peppercorn rent".

"We don't want to turn it into car parking, but they have been paying a peppercorn rent of around £500 per year and it would be reasonable to suggest this is not a fair rent," he said.

"Discussions will take place between now and 2015 to come up with a new arrangement."

He said there were 60 members of the club using it for just half a year.

"It is only fair to the rest of the ratepayers in Craven that a fair increase in the rent is achieved," he said.

Cllr John Kerwin-Davey (Ind, Skipton North) said there were rumours that the green was to be turned into a car park or swimming pool and added that the council needed to have a long term policy for the site.

But Cllr Simon Myers (Cons, Gargrave) stressed: "There is clearly no intention of turning it into a car park and no intention of charging a rent that will put them out, that is the top and bottom of it."