Bowls club accused of secrecy on homes plan

An historic bowling club in Dartmouth Park is pressing ahead with controversial plans to save itself at the expense of precious community space, residents claim.

Plans have been discussed with Camden Council bosses to build 10 homes on green land at Mansfield Bowling Club in Croftdown Road, as well as six new indoor bowling rinks, two new tennis courts and other improved facilities.

The 100-year-old club is in financial difficulty and building housing on part of the site is one possible way of securing its future.

Council planners last week produced a report on the draft proposals in which officers emphasised constraints that would apply to development of “private open space”.

The report said the development must benefit the wider community and provide sustainable long-term sports facilities to win planning permission.

It also questioned whether bowls was a “growth sport” with enough demand for the club to become self-sufficient, and whether the facilities proposed were of wide enough appeal.

Residents claim the club, which closed its outdoor lawns last autumn because of spiralling costs and dwindling membership, has kept them in the dark.

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Paul Barker, chair of the Mansfield Neighbours Group, said: “They’ve played their cards very close to their chest. What we want to see are some facts and figures.”

He added: “It is a destructive and ill-thought-out scheme. They’re stuck in a groove and they need to think very carefully about what to do next.”

Patrick Lefevre, chairman of Dartmouth Park Conservation Area Advisory Committee, said the club was acting as a “dog in a manger”.

He said: “They are trying to sell the family silver in a desperate attempt to keep going. But keeping it going as a bowling club at the price of building on open space is not on. By letting the developers have a stake in it, and effectively mortgaging it, they are at risk of losing control of the land altogether.”

The land was left for the public good by Baroness Burdett-Coutts, the philanthropist who also bequeathed Holly Lodge in Highgate.

On behalf of the club, Nick Cooper of Iceni Projects, said: “There will be a public consultation at the club, hopefully during April or May, where local residents and the wider community will have the opportunity to comment on the proposals.” No planning application has yet been submitted.