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Relief as bowls club saved from closure after rent hike compromise

The future of a long-running bowls club, which had been facing closure due to a huge rent hike, has been secured.
Thetford Bowls Club saved

The future of a long-running bowls club, which had been facing closure due to a huge rent hike, has been secured.

The GW Staniforth Bowls Club had been told rent for the green it uses at King’s House Gardens in Thetford, would rise from £300 to £3,900 a year.

Members of the 55-strong club, founded in 1951, feared the increase by landlords the Staniforth Trust – at a time when the cost of living crisis is biting – was not affordable.

John Wright, bowls club secretary, had warned it would have meant a rise in annual subscription fees for members from £50 a year to £150 a year.

He said members would not have been able to pay such an inflated price and the club might have faced closure, after more than 70 years.

That would have left Thetford as the biggest town in England without a bowls green. Hundreds of people signed a petition urging the Staniforth Trust’s trustees to reconsider.

The trust had always signalled its hopes a compromise could be found and that the bowls club needed to “make their case” for what it could afford.

And Mr Wright said, following a meeting last week, a compromise had been reached, which will allow the club to keep using the green, off St Giles’ Lane, in the town centre.

He said: “I’m pleased to say we have had some good news. We have been told we can have a two-year licence to use the site for £1,000 rent a year.

“That was the figure which we felt the club could afford. We will need to apply for grants as well, which will be hard work, but I think we have got enough members willing to help do that.

“I’ve been contacting the members to tell them the news and they’re really pleased.

“There was a lot of worry about it, but everyone connected with the club is pleased.

“The petition ended up with well over 2,000 signatures, so I think that shows you what it means to people in the town.”

Both the bowls club and the trust are named after George Wild Staniforth, who died in 1947 leaving his home King’s House, its gardens and his £77,728 fortune – around £3m today – to the town of Thetford.

The trust was not available to comment, but had previously said the initial rent increase recommendation had come following an independent valuation of the King’s House Gardens site.

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