Author Julian Barnes joins campaign to save Mansfield Bowling Club

Campaigners – including writer Julian Barnes and members of a tennis club which opened nearly 100-years-ago – are mounting a campaign to stop houses being built on a bowling green in Dartmouth Park.

Mansfield Bowling Club, in Croftdown Road, has announced plans to knock down the clubhouse and indoor bowling green to make way for eight family houses and a new health and fitness centre.

But the plans will mean a tennis club, which has stood the test of time since 1919, will be forced to close and green space lost forever, according to campaigners.

Paul Barker, who is chairman of Mansfield Neighbours’ Group Steering Committee and lives in Dartmouth Park Avenue, said the plans which went on display last Friday were “disgraceful” and “misleading”.

“This is designated open space in the middle of a conservation area,” said Mr Barker.

“It would be almost entirely obliterated for the benefit of an estate of houses, car parking space and a new access road.

“At the exhibition there were no architects’ drawings of the housing at all.

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“The bowling club is putting itself in bed with the developer.”

The bowling club closed its outdoor green last summer after 91 years blaming a drop in membership and funds.

So far about 200 people have signed a petition against proposals for houses to be built on the land.

Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, captain of Kenlyn Lawn Tennis Club, said it was “scandalous” outdoor sport may never be played on the site again.

“The tennis club has been here for 93 years,” he said. “Our tennis club is unique because the courts are made of shale. We maintain it and the club is financially viable. It is a pretty successful enterprise.

“This is sweeping away all trace of outdoor sport. What happened to the Olympic legacy?”

The bowling club has said it plans to build a new community leisure and fitness centre which will have a gym, two indoor studios and landscaped gardens open to members of the public.

Bowlers would also benefit from a refurbished indoor bowling rink, new changing facilities and viewing area which would be funded by the sale of the eight houses.

The club is also in discussions with charitable trust Greenwich Leisure Limited, which operates all of Camden Council’s public leisure facilities.

Andy Docker, president of Mansfield Bowling Club, said: “At a time when local councils are under intense pressure to balance the books and cut services, we believe that delivering this new health and fitness centre will be a real boost to the Dartmouth Park area, while also securing the long-term future of the bowling club.”