Labour MP for Sefton Central, Bill Esterson is backing a bill to protect Bowling Greens after budget cuts in Sefton threatened Duke St Park Bowling Green in Formby.
Bill had earlier supported bowlers and other residents who called on Sefton Council to save Formby’s Duke Street Park Bowling Green. He has now joined forces with other MPs presenting a bill introducing controls to protect bowling greens across the country.
Bill has backed a Ten Minute Rule Bill along with Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock , calling for the protection of bowling greens. Bill said: “In recent years, bowling clubs across the country have been hit as a result of struggling pubs or social clubs attempting to sell off greens for development. More recently, a number of councils facing cuts in their funding have chosen to cease maintenance of greens or sell them entirely. The original budget by Sefton’s Conservative/Lib-Dem coalition council was set to close Duke St Park Bowling Green in Formby and this was only overturned when bowlers and other residents protested against the cuts, along with Labour candidate for Ravenmeols, Catie Page and the Formby Labour Action Team.
Bowling remains hugely popular and for many older people is the main way in which they keep themselves active. The bill would strengthen planning safeguards so a green that is used by an existing team cannot be built over unless local bowlers consent to the sell-off.
Although existing planning laws state that bowling greens and other sporting venues should not be disposed of unless they are surplus to requirements, developers find ways to convince councils to allow sell offs even though greens are still in active use.
It also introduces a ‘community right to buy’ for bowling greens, allowing people to club together and form a co-operative to purchase the green for themselves and maintain it as a community asset”.
Speaking on the threat to Duke Street Park earlier this year, Labour candidate for the Ravenmeols Ward, Catie Page, said: "Bowling is a very popular pastime in Formby. It keeps a lot of people in the town fit, particularly some of the older members of the community.
"So to take away the facilities from people who clearly use them and make the most of them would be outrageous. We need to protect these valued resources”.
The wording of the Bill is:
Protection of Bowling Greens (Development Control): That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require local planning authorities to ensure that certain criteria are met before planning permission involving the redevelopment of bowling greens can be granted; to introduce a community right to buy for bowling greens in certain circumstances; and for connected purposes.