Protestors pack Ridgewood hall

Picnickers enjoy the sunny weather at Ridgewood Recreation Ground
Picnickers enjoy the sunny weather at Ridgewood Recreation Ground

Despite short notice of the meeting, more than 50 residents and users of the Ridgewood Recreation Ground filed into the village hall last Saturday.

The purpose was to hear members of Uckfield Bowls Club outline their plans for a new green on the Recreation Ground.

The club pointed out that if they could not go ahead with their green on this site, there is a real risk the club itself will be forced to close.

The audience heard an area of about 50 by 50 metres had been staked out prior to the meeting so everyone could see the space would be required for a green.

While local people were sympathetic to the club’s predicament, the overall mood was of strong opposition to the plans.

Protests included the prospect of the land being used only for four months of the year by a private members’ club while the general public are excluded for the whole year. They pointed out this would not be the case with a rugby or football pitch where access is allowed except during matches.

Among other concerns raised was the impact of potential parking issues when the club was in use.

There was also some confusion over plans on display for an improved children’s play area, but the council pointed out this was a separate matter, not linked to plans for a bowling green.

The meeting concluded with a promise from cllr Alan Whittaker that another public meeting would be arranged after the General and local elections to update residents on the progress or outcome of the Bowls Club proposals.

A council spokesman verified no decision will be taken until all aspects of the scheme have been debated. The issue will come before councillors Helen Firth, Allan Whittaker, John Carvey and Mayor Ian Smith, members of Uckfield Town Council’s environment and leisure committee, on May 26.

New Road resident Lyn Buckingham said: “The weekend’s public meeting has served to get plans out in the open. It is now up to those who value preserving this unique open space for the use of present and future generations to make their voices heard, or risk losing this precious public amenity forever.”

But Bowls Club members were saddened to hear their efforts to preserve their club from closure could fail. They pointed out an existing lease on land at Grants Hill House is due to cease in 2019 and will not be renewed. There is nowhere they can go. They cannot afford to buy private land and there would be no alternative but to close the club.