Row over £5 charge to “access toilets” could end 50 year history of Hellesdon Bowls Club
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Bowls club members in Hellesdon outraged at parish council plans to charge them £5 for access to the nearest toilets could vote to end their history of more than 50 years in protest.
Hellesdon Parish Council took over management of the community centre and bowls green in December promising 'efficiencies and cost-savings' and have since verbally informed the bowls club their £2,000 rent would be increasing by £200 a year.
During their matches the club have always had access to toilets in the nearby changing rooms, but have now been told this will now remain locked unless a £5 hire charge is paid.
On average they estimate it would cost £500 a year to make the toilets available for their season between May and September.
The parish council say they are not charging for access to the toilets but hire of the changing rooms, and call the rising charges 'fair and just'.
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The oldest member of the bowls club is in his 90s, and captain Bill Johnson fears the distance to public toilets could be critical for his players.
'They are asking people to take a risk,' he said. 'It is not just their well-being I am worried about, it is their dignity as well.
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'We don't need to use changing rooms, all we need it for is to use the toilet, but they say there is the electricity and water cost involved,'
Hellesdon Bowls Club wrote to the parish on February 25 demanding confirmation in writing but are yet to receive a reply.
'It is ridiculous really,' Mr Johnson added. 'I have had players say they are not going to come to matches as a result. 'There is no transparency, and I have written to the council asking for minutes of the meeting where this was decided. There have been no minutes published on their website since last summer. This has all been done verbally and we haven't even been sent a letter confirming it.'
The future of the club will be decided when members hold a vote at their pre-season meeting on April 13. 'The first question we will ask ourselves is whether we should carry on at all,' said member Colin Abbott. 'We will find it very difficult to cover the added cost.'
Council clerk Patricia Kirby said it was 'disappointing to be the subject of criticism' and the club would have an opportunity to raise grievances at their annual hirers meeting on March 15.
'The cost goes some way to offsetting the increase of the much needed chemicals and fertilisers which support the green being in pristine condition and this is without attributing any cost for the exceptional routine work to the green by the council's grounds staff,' she said.
'The council operates free toilet facilities both inside and outside the community centre. There are further toilets together with showers and personal storage available in two changing rooms which are not for public use however the rooms are available for hire at a current charge of £5 per room. It is assumed by the parish council that it is these facilities that the bowls club wish to access.'
The £5 hire charge for the changing rooms was put in place in December when the council took over the community centre, but will be 'subject to a review in May,' Mrs Kirby added.
'The council considered a 10pc rise in costs to accommodate the current level of hire of eight sessions per week from the end of April to the end of September as fair and just,' she said.'