New leisure provider Fusion appointed in Mansfield Bowling Club redevelopment bid

Mansfield Bowling Club site, from left, Keith Northrop, Val Day, Helen Greave, Nick Norden, Wendy Sh

Mansfield Bowling Club site, from left, Keith Northrop, Val Day, Helen Greave, Nick Norden, Wendy Shale, Patrick Lefevre, Geoffrey Nowell-Smith and front right Paul Barker at the Croftdown Road entrance. - Credit: Archant

Owners of an historic bowling green have appointed a charitable leisure group as part of redevelopment plans that have sparked vehement opposition from residents and conservation groups.

In February Mansfield Bowling Club in Croftdown Road, Dartmouth Park, lodged plans with Camden Council to demolish its outdoor bowling rink and two clay tennis courts used by the Kenlyn Lawn Tennis Club.

The club plans to replace it with a leisure centre, a new indoor bowling club and eight houses and has now appointed London-based leisure group Fusion Lifestyle to run the new leisure centre.

The new fitness facility will offer exercise classes and four indoor bowling lanes, if planning permission is granted.

But the bid has been fiercely opposed by community groups.

Paul Barker, chairman of Mansfield Neighbours Group, said: “The appointment of this leisure company makes no difference to our objections.

“We oppose this application because of the destruction of open space and do not accept that it’s necessary to destroy by putting large luxury houses on this land.

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“We are extremely dubious about the finances of all this and think the real purpose is to make profit from the houses, and the gym is a ‘top dressing’.

“There are a lot of gym facilities already based in the area so I have severe doubts whether it would make any money.”

Club officials claim they were forced to shut the outdoor bowling green in 2011 as it struggled to keep pace with repair work and membership dwindled.

But the development plans have been fiercely opposed by community groups - who have now launched a bid to protect the bowling green.

The Dartmouth Park Conservation Area Advisory Committee has nominated the green space as an asset of community value.

The listing - which would be the first of its kind in Camden if successful - potentially allows the community to put forward an alternative bid for the land if the planning application is rejected.

But the bowling club has objected to the asset listing on the grounds that part of the site is subject to a contract and would therefore be exempt.

A spokesman said owners of the 100-year-old bowling club were feeling positive about the forthcoming planning application, which is set to be debated at the end of May.

If approved, Fusion Lifestyle, a charity which also runs leisure centres in Haringey and Southwark, will manage the sports facility on the site under a long-term lease.

Andy Docker, president of Mansfield Bowling Club said: “Fusion’s approach fits perfectly with our ambition that Mansfield Bowling Club becomes a genuine hub for the local community, opening up the site for participation in classes, courses and active fitness regardless of age or ability.”