Ridgewood residents said, at a public meeting on Saturday, that they don’t want Uckfield Bowls Club moving to the village recreation ground.
Their arguments against the proposal included concern about extra traffic in New Road, pressure on car parking at the village hall, the height of a fence around the bowling green and the loss of land to the community.
Saturday’s meeting was called by Uckfield Town Council to give residents the opportunity of discussing the proposed bowls club move and also the possibility of improving the children’s play area, and extending the village hall.
Cllr Alan Whittaker, who chaired the meeting, said all three items were separate matters and none were dependent on the others going ahead.
Background to the three projects
- The bowls club is in talks with the council because it is being forced to move from its existing premises in the grounds of sheltered accommodation at Grants Hill House, Oaklea Way, where owner Wealden District Council is not willing to extend the lease beyond 2019.
- The town council is proposing the extension and improvement of the play area as part of a rolling programme to carry out work at each of the town’s play areas.
- Ridgewood Village Hall committee is considering extending the hall to improve facilities for villagers, whether or not the bowls club proposal, which includes incorporating a club house in the extension, goes ahead.
It was made clear on Saturday (April 11) that the bowls club would be responsible for all costs associated with any move of theirs to the recreation ground.
It was also stressed no final decision had been made about whether to allow the move to go ahead or where a green would be sited on the recreation ground, if, in the end, it was allowed.
Council support is ‘prejudicial, premature and preemptive’
The town council has agreed “in principle” to the bowls club move but one resident at the meeting on Saturday asked them to step back from that position.
He said: “There are too many outstanding issues for the town council to continue its position of ‘support in principle’. This is prejudicial, premature and preemptive. The town council should back off.”
Residents asked whether the green could instead be included as part of the 1,000 homes development at Ridgewood Farm, or be sited at Harlands Farm.
Bowls club members said they had asked about both sites. They favoured Harlands but had been turned down and feedback, so far, from developers of the new estate had not been positive.
Late night party fears
Residents voiced fears about late night parties if a green and clubhouse were opened at Ridgewood Recreation Ground but a bowls club representative said that never in more than 30 years had there been a party in the clubhouse, even at the end of a season.
Matches tended to finish at 9pm with sandwiches and a bottle of beer, or glass of wine, offered as a courtesy afterwards. The clubhouse was normally cleared by 9.30 to 10pm.
Villagers were told the green wouldn’t be used between September and April but at other times it would be available to club members seven days a week. The number of people playing at any one time would range from two to 32.
Bowls club representatives said they had resisted a move from Grants Hill House as best they could and Cllr John Carvey said Wealden MP Charles Hendry tried, without success, to help the bowls club to stay in Oaklea Way. Wealden officers had said that keeping the bowling green on the site would compromise development in the future.
Residents asked how the views of the bowls club with its 100 members would be balanced against the views of residents when town councillors made their final decision. They couldn’t see what the benefits of the proposal would be to the wider community.
They were also worried that when new members joined the town council after the election on Thursday, May 7, they wouldn’t be aware of Ridgewood residents’ views about the bowls green.
Cllr Whittaker said a report would be drawn up, which would include the views expressed at the meeting, and would go to the next meeting of the Environment and Leisure Committee. He also agreed to pass on a request for another public meeting to be held at Ridgewood after the election so that residents could make their views clear to any new councillors.
Recreation ground review
Uckfield Town Council began a review of the use of Ridgewood Recreation Ground in 2013 and the possibility of the bowls club moving there was mentioned at that time. See: New uses sought for Ridgewood Recreation Ground, Uckfield.
The bowls club had approached the town council asking for help in 2012 and councillors agreed then to see what they could do to help. Land at Harlands Farm and West Park were suggested initially.
Uckfield Bowls Club was established in the 1980s with Wealden District Council providing the site in the grounds of Grants Hill House, while the town council provided the four-rink green and other facilities.
The bowls club said in a letter to the town council in 2013 that the district council was “adamant that they would not renew the lease in 2019 but have given no other reason than that they require total flexibility”.
Wealden District Council is planning to invest £20 million in sheltered housing over the next ten years to ensure that it is suitable and meets the needs of older residents.
In Uckfield the council has two sheltered housing schemes at Streatfeild House in Southview Drive and Grants Hill House, where the bowls club is currently based.
Play area improvements welcomed
• Residents at the meeting on Saturday welcomed proposals to improve the children’s play area on the recreation ground.
The town council has money earmarked for the work and if final approval is given to carry out improvements – similar to those completed at Hempstead Lane play area in 2013 – they will go out to tender to establish the costs of the project.
Read more about the proposals for Ridgewood play area here: Ridgewood play area could double in size.
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