FURNESS MP John Woodcock has launched a campaign to protect the county’s bowling greens from being ‘ripped’ up for housing.
Owners of bowling greens are resorting to ‘underhand tactics’ such as changing locks and cutting off power and water so they can sell off land to developers, claims Mr Woodcock.
He described bowling clubs as the ‘sinews that make this country great’ in a speech on the floor of the House of Commons.
“Bowling is part of the fabric of these islands,” said the Labour MP.
“The reassuring click of wood kissing wood is gradually being replaced by the unsettling clanking noise of mechanical diggers that are ripping up greens in every corner of Britain.”
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Denise Noble is secretary of the Kendal and District Bowling League, which spans isolated communities from Ingleton to Lindale and the Langdales.
She said bowling attracted players from the ages of eight to people in their 80s.
“For those who lose a partner bowling is a lifeblood so there is a social aspect that is important to a lot of people,” she said.
Mr Woodcock said that soon after he became an MP he launched The Hands Off Our Bowling Greens campaign when he heard seven local greens had been lost to developers.
The Protection of Bowling Greens was presented to the Commons in March 2011. It prompted the Department for Communities and Local Government to announce that bowling greens would receive greater protection under the National Planning Policy Framework.
“The move was welcome but since then it has all gone very quiet and greens continue to disappear,” said Mr Woodcock.
To mark the start of the new bowling season Mr Woodcock has now launched the Labour Bowlers’ Charter.
It aims to bring an end to bowling greens being designated as surplus to requirements by local planning authorities, to halt owners locking bowlers out of their greens, to create a community right-to-buy for greens and to provide extra support for bowlers who want to form co-operatives to run threatened greens.
“These are the greens at the heart of their communities, providing social interaction as well as physical activity,” said Mr Woodcock.
Mike Todroff, who has been president of the Cumbria County Crown Green Bowling Association for five years, said there were around 3,000 players in the south of the county.
“We want to encourage whoever owns the land to try to lease or sell it to the club in the first instance,” he said.
“If they can’t raise the money then fair enough but we want to be top of the list and have the first choice to buy if we want it.”