Anger over plans to close historic Morecambe bowling club which is a 'social lifeline' to many
It's going to be the end of an era for an almost 80-year-old thriving, local bowling club, which is set to close for good next month.
Plans are afoot to convert Cumberland View Bowling Club, which is situated at the rear of Cumberland View Pub, in Heysham, Morecambe, into a beer garden.
The busy facility has been in operation since 1945 and is particularly popular with the town's older generation. It boasts 62 bowlers ranging from ages 22 to 94. Over the past eight decades, the club has prospered as a community hub and leisure facility - hosting regular games for all ages at local and county level.
However, the club's three year lease with Thwaites Brewery, who own the land, is coming to an end on December 31st and club members have been told the shock news that it won't be renewed. Instead, bosses at Thwaites are exploring plans to convert the bowling green into a beer garden for "an outdoor space for families to enjoy".
The news has prompted reactions of sadness and disappointment from bowlers who say the closure is devastating to Morecambe's older generation who meet and form friendships.
Club secretary Fran Foran said: "We are absolutely devastated and were left gobsmacked when we first heard that the lease won't be renewed. Bowls is highly sociable providing a level playing field across all ages and genders and over the years this club has gone from strength-to-strength. In fact, during the Covid-19 outbreak, we increased our club membership from 42 to 61 members as the Government was encouraging us to take up sport and enjoy the fresh air so people of all ages were joining our club."
She added: "In the past couple of years we have spent so much money upgrading our green and club house and it's all shot down in flames. We received the bombshell notice of termination only recently and sadly there is nothing we can do."
Similar views were shared by committee member Paul Cocker. "It's not just about bowls. It's about coming here, meeting people, having a cup of tea, sharing experiences - old and young. It's our club. We have opened it up to the people of Heysham and Morecambe. We play three or four times a week. We are thriving. We've had no consultation or say in the closure. It's like the rug has been pulled from under our feet."
Bowler Terry Harvey (70), who lives in Morecambe, has been associated with Cumberland View Bowling Club for the past 30 years. He is upset the facility will close next month.
"This club has been a social lifeline for so many players over the years who wouldn't normally meet or talk to anyone, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. We're not just a club, we are a team of human beings and great friends - it's great exercise and socialising for us all. This is our heritage which we all need to help preserve in the local community. Generations of Morecambe people have played at this club and it's a local amenity we cannot afford to lose."
Club members have also enlisted the help of Morecambe and Lunesdale county councillor Margaret Pattison who said: "It's a real shame. Club members have looked after the historic facility for years and it's devastating that it's coming to an end like this."
Speaking about the future plans for the site, Andrew Buchanan, Director of Pubs and Brewing at Daniel Thwaites PLC, said: "“We have been in discussion with both the tenant of the Cumberland View and the Bowling Club for some time and we have taken the decision not to renew the lease of the area currently occupied by the bowling green.
"Working with our tenant, we consider more people in the local community will be able to enjoy the space if we repurpose it.
"The area will see investment to allow for families to enjoy the space to meet and socialise as well as other clubs and societies who may choose to enjoy an outdoor space. We will make the change at the end of the year.”