Two of Worthing’s bowls clubs have reacted angrily to news that their car park is being made public, fearing it could mark the end of the sport locally.
Worthing Borough Council voted to turn tennis courts in Beach House Park into a car park for at least three years.
Currently, members of Worthing Bowling Club and Homefield Park Bowling Club pay £125 to play bowls from April to October.
The council also gives permits to members and their visitors allowing them to park in the tennis courts, which have otherwise lain empty for a few years.
But this decision has put their parking future in doubt, and a solution has not yet been offered by the council.
Homefield Park bowler Trisha Elton, 73, said she was ‘flabbergasted’ by the decision, which she first heard about in the Herald. She said: “If we start losing members because they can’t afford the parking fees, then the council will be putting an end to bowling in Worthing.”
The decision means that members may have to use nearby pay-and-display car parks. Lyndhurst Road Car Park costs £5.60 for up to six hours, and charges seven days a week.
Pam Edwards, 70, said: “Bowls isn’t a rich man’s sport. I don’t think people will come and play if they have to pay to park.”
Bowler Alan Turley, 67, said this decision was at odds with the council’s investment in bowls, such as refurbishing their clubhouse and fitting an irrigation system on the lawns.
Jim Edwards, president of Homefield Park Bowling Club, said it was ‘disappointing’ that the council had not told them about the decision, which will mean more parking for staff and visitors to the nearby Worthing Hospital.
The 70-year-old added: “We don’t want it to be a competition between the bowls clubs and NHS staff.
“We appreciate the tennis courts will often sit empty in the closed season, but it would be nice if the council could give us some suggestions about how we can carry on playing bowls here without further expense.”
A Worthing Borough Council spokesman said: “The tennis courts at Beach House Park have not been used since 2009, instead being used as an informal car park for bowls club users and others at certain times.
“Last year Worthing Borough Council approved a suggestion to create a more permanent parking area on the site with about 70 spaces.
“This will be for the benefit of a wider range of users and generate income to maintain the park.
“A planning application was first made in early 2017, resubmitted shortly after and only recently approved.
“We have held meetings previously with the clubs who play in the park which included discussions on parking arrangements.
“The next meeting, to be arranged at the end of September, will discuss potential car parking options moving forward.”