John Woodcock MP is today's guest blogger. you can read his blog about the reasons for his impromptu game of bowls on College Green in front of the Houses of Parliament yesterday and you can also view the video report from the day.
I was very pleased to be able to welcome bowlers from around the country to Westminster yesterday, to meet their MPs and press the case for increased protection for Britain’s threatened bowling greens – and to play an impromptu game of bowls on College Green across the road from parliament!
In March, I introduced a bill to the House of Commons which would increase planning protection for bowling greens and make it easier for local groups and co-operatives to take over threatened greens. Bowling is a sport enjoyed by more than 400,000 people of all ages across Britain, including in your constituency. Bowling clubs are often at the heart of communities and support other local services. The sport of bowling is a valuable source of physical, social and mental activity for many, including for older people; it is a sport which has a proud place in Britain’s social and sporting heritage.
In recent years, large numbers of bowling greens have closed or have come under threat, often leaving thriving bowling clubs with nowhere to play, breaking up established groups of players and weakening communities. These closures are arising both as a result of greens being sold for development or local authorities ceasing maintenance as part of their savings. Whilst the current planning system theoretically provides some protection for bowling greens, the numbers that have been lost suggest that existing regulations are insufficient to provide the necessary protection.
I introduced this bill not only as a former junior crown green bowler, but also as MP for Barrow and Furness, an area that has seen a sad litany of green closures over the past decade. Since introducing the bill, I have been heartened by the level of support the bill has received both within parliament and beyond. My office has received messages of support from every corner of the country and many accounts of greens under threat.
Following yesterday’s successful lobby, I’m looking forward to continuing to work with bowlers, clubs and organisations to put pressure on ministers to either support my bill or to incorporate its provisions into their own legislation. We have successfully demonstrated that this is an issue of nationwide concern – ministers need to listen.