East Dunbartonshire Council’s LibDem/Tory coalition under fire over eviction of hundreds of Bearsden bowlers

Independent North Bearsden Councillor Duncan Cumming is upset that the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Councillors led the debate that ultimately meant that a decision to exclude 'like for like' facilities in the new Allander Sports Centre means that there will be no facilities for indoor bowling
Independent North Bearsden Councillor Duncan Cumming is upset that the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Councillors led the debate that ultimately meant that a decision to exclude 'like for like' facilities in the new Allander Sports Centre means that there will be no facilities for indoor bowling

Several hundred indoor bowlers in Bearsden are facing eviction after councillors voted against including the facility in the replacement for the Allander Leisure Centre.

The bowlers hit out at East Dunbartonshire Council for “stringing them along” with a promise of “like for like” facilities.

And Independent Bearsden councillor Duncan Cumming blasted Lib Dem and Conservative councillors for leading the debate to exclude the bowlers.

At a meeting of the full council held in Kirkintilloch on Thursday, September 26, councillors approved a number of capital projects including the new Allander leisure centre.

However, the design is smaller than the current centre and does not feature indoor bowling facilities, which have been used by Allander Indoor Bowling Club for more than 40 years.

Adding such facilities would add an extra £2 million to the cost of the new centre, which has already increased from £25m to £33m following investigation into site conditions.

The new centre will include a larger gym than before as well as an eight-lane rather than six-lane swimming pool. It is anticipated that these features will increase the earning potential for the East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture Trust, the arms-length company which operates such facilities.

Allander Indoor Bowling Club’s honourary president, John Harvey,  commented after the meeting: “We are feeling very disillusioned by this outcome, and the eagerness of the council to push the decision through.

“It’s been a long battle but we feel the council has been stringing us along despite past assurances that any new building would mean a like for like replacement of existing facilities.

“Councillors in Bearsden and Milngavie have particularly let us down, especially as we are the only indoor bowling club in the region and draw members from a wide area including Kirkintilloch, Lenzie and Torrance.”

The club currently has around 300 members, with ages ranging from eight-year-old children to people in their 90s.

With regard to the older members in particular, John is also worried about the effect losing their hobby and its associated social calendar will have.

A member of the bowling club committee expressed thanks to some 2,300 people who signed petitions supporting the club.

The majority of the councillors agreed with their officers’ findings which justified not building new indoor bowling facilities. These included falling levels of participation in the sport and club membership, which stood at over 700 in 2005 but has now declined to less than half that amount. This decline caused council officers to believe the income generated by the facility – which would not be used continually through the year and currently brings in around £51,000 annually – would not justify the expense.

Independent Bearsden North councillor Duncan Cumming, who called for bowling facilities to be included in the new centre,  said: “For many years I have campaigned with vigour and conviction for a replacement Allander Leisure Centre.

“I am therefore very upset that the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Councillors led the debate that ultimately meant that a decision to exclude ‘like for like’ facilities in the new Allander Sports Centre means that there will be no facilities for indoor bowling.

“I am also extremely disappointed that the Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors, who have fully controlled the council since April 2018, did not convene a meeting nor communicate with the full community stakeholder group called The Allander Champions Group until 19th June 2019. 

“The previous meeting of the Allander Champions took place 17 months ago in January 2018. There is so much expertise, passion and goodwill within this group and the council should have spent far more time tapping into this, rather than leaving it for a year and a half without a meeting. 

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime project and the council, and the leisure trust have only one opportunity to get this right.”