Chance of survival for one bowling club in Montrose and Hillside

Ken Marvelley, president of Inch Bowling Club, Jim Donald vice president of Hillside Bowling Club, and Frank Coutts, vice president of Melville Bowling Clubs outside the Hillside club house.
Ken Marvelley, president of Inch Bowling Club, Jim Donald vice president of Hillside Bowling Club, and Frank Coutts, vice president of Melville Bowling Clubs outside the Hillside club house.

There may be a chance of survival for one of three bowling clubs in Montrose and Hillside facing closure if the council accept a new proposal.

Last week, the Review reported that Inch, Melville and Hillside bowling clubs may face closure if the local authority brings in new maintenance charges, which they have estimated at £15,000 per year, to bring them in line with the seven other council owned greens.

The Review now understands that after members of the three clubs met with Montrose councillors, the director of communities and the convener of neighbour services last week, a new proposal to save one of the clubs has been put forward.

Kenneth Marvelley, president of Inch Bowling Club, said: “What was suggested at the meeting was that one of the three clubs be given £5,000 by the council, which would cover cost of maintaining the green. Then there would be £200 rent for the year and hopefully the membership money could cover the rest of the costs.”

Angus Council estimated that if it no longer maintained the club’s greens it would save them around £45,000 per year.

Mr Marvelley added: “We don’t like it but none of the clubs have enough members to afford the £5,000. If the council could give us £10,000 we could save two of the clubs, which would still save them £30,000, but I can’t see it happening.

“We’re in limbo at the moment. Inch Bowling Club has been running for 63 years, the members are in despair because they can’t see a future for the club.”

Mr Marvelley added that members of Inch Bowling worked out their costs at £5,500 for six months.

Hazel Campbell, of Melville Bowling, said: “If it means keeping one of the clubs going, we have to be realistic and pull together. Since we found out about the charges, I have always felt that there needs to be a merge of the clubs.

She added: “Melville Bowling has been open since 1878. If you look at old Melville photos from years ago there are dozens of people playing bowls, but with new technology, people retiring later and people working long hours and commuting, not everyone has a lot of spare time and it is not as popular anymore.

“The clubs that seem to be surviving are those that have a bar.”

She concluded: “I am hopeful that this proposal will go through and I am quite happy to support the one club that is saved.”

Montrose Councillor David May said: “I am pleased to see that the council are at last showing much more flexibility. The clubs recognised that they should pay more and are willing to do so, but what was being proposed threatened the existence of all three of them.

“At the meeting I spoke about how poorly the council had consulted the clubs and that some of the figures in the report were inaccurate.

“If the council stuck to their proposals it would be disastrous for the clubs and their members, many of whom are pensioners on the basic pension.

“It’s hopefully on the horizon that we can get a solution on this.”

Mr May added that the clubs have asked Angus Council for a detailed break down of everything that needs to be done to maintain the greens and how much it all costs, with a view of seeing if they can out source it for less money.

Mr May added: “Often if you out source things they can be a lot cheaper.”

Councillor Donald Morrison, convenor for neighbourhood services, said: “We need to maintain these services, so that both elderly and young people can play at bowling clubs in Montrose and Hillside.”

Mr Morrison commented that fears had grown that the new charges would be enforced immediately. He said: “For something that has been in the background for so long we can’t make a decision on this in one meeting, it is going to take two or three.

“The charges won’t come in until April next year, we have about six months to reach an amicable decision.”