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‘Unfeasible’ 1,200pc rent hike threatens bowls club

A town's bowls club faces closure after a 1,200pc rent hike on its green.
Thetford Bowls club

A town’s bowls club faces closure after a 1,200pc rent hike on its green.

The GW Staniforth Bowls Club in Thetford has been told its rent is increasing from £300 to £3,900 a year by its landlord the Staniforth Trust.

The 55-strong club, which was founded in 1951, says it can’t afford it.

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.  

Staniforth was a keen bowler and the club’s green stands in the grounds of his former home. 

The Staniforth Trust’s chairman said he did not want to see the club fold and it should come back to the trust and offer what it could afford.

Bowls club secretary John Wright said: “This has come at the wrong time for many of our members.

“We are only just recovering from Covid both as a club and individually – we have an elder demographic who need a bit of confidence before a return to a full social scene again, not a rent rise of 1,200 per cent.

“The financial reality is subs would need to rise from the current £50 a year to £150. 

“With a cost-of-living crisis in full swing, this is completely unfeasible. If the club does fold Thetford would be the biggest town in England without a bowling green. After 71 years it would be such a loss.”

Trust chairman Stuart Wright said the decision to increase the bowls club’s rent was agreed by a majority of the trust’s trustees after an independent valuation of the site in the King’s House Gardens.

“I would hope we could come to some sort of compromise,” he added. “They need to make their case, say this is what we can afford and throw that back for the Staniforth Trust to consider.

“I believe any offer the bowls club come up with should be considered by the trustees again.”

Mr Wright from the bowls club said: “We want to carry on as a bowls club, we’re prepared to pay a rent increase but we’re not prepared to pay a 1,200pc increase.”

Breckland councillor Stuart Terry said: “Staniforth was a bowler. To treat the bowls club like this seems wrong.”

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