Hundreds sign petition to save bowls club from 1,200pc rent hike
- Credit: Terry Jermy
Efforts to save a town’s bowls club from a rent hike of 1,200pc have stepped up with calls for support of a public petition.
Almost 600 people have signed the online version of the ‘Save GW Staniforth Bowls Club’ petition, with hundreds more said to have signed hard copies in Thetford.
The 55 members of the south Norfolk club, which was founded in 1951, spoke of their shock last month after learning that its landlord, the Staniforth Trust, intends to increase annual rent from £300 to £3,950.
They have warned that such a rise would mean the club would have to close, leaving Thetford as the biggest town in England without a bowls green.
Both the bowls club and the trust are named after George Wild Staniforth, who died in 1947 leaving his home, its gardens and his fortune to the town of Thetford.
The rent hike comes despite club members tending to and paying for all maintenance at the site, off St Giles’ Lane, in the town centre.
The Staniforth Trust have said the decision to increase the rent was agreed after an independent valuation of King's House Gardens.
However, chairman Stuart Wright said he hopes a compromise could be found and that the bowls club needed to “make their case” for what they can afford.
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The petition has subsequently been launched, with bowls club secretary John Wright saying: “I want to thank every single person who has taken the trouble to sign so far.
“We are co-ordinating this petition which will be presented to trustees of the GW Staniforth Trust and ask that they reconsider their decision to increase the rent and instead work with, and support, the bowls club so that it can remain operating.”
He added that annual subscription fees would need to rise from £50 a year to £150 a year to meet the rent increase, which he described as “completely unfeasible”.
District councillor Stuart Terry is supporting the club. He said: “We know that George Staniforth, who gave the land and buildings to the Trust, was a keen bowls player himself.
“I am sure that he would be disappointed to see the end of this club after more than 71 years and I hope that the trustees review their decision.”
Hard copies of the petition are at the bowls club, the Leaping Hare information centre and the Charles Burrell Centre. The online petition can be signed at chng.it/VwKnTPHmfd.