How the Mansfield Bowling Club site will look
Published: 2 February, 2017
By DAN CARRIER
MORE than 100 years of sporting history in the heart of Dartmouth Park is set to end forever after a Whitehall planning inspector ruled a luxury housing development can be built on the site of a bowling club.
The directors of the Mansfield Bowling Club have been battling to build 21 homes on its site in Croftdown Road for nearly a decade. Blocked by the Town Hall, they discovered this week that a planning appeal has been successful.
The bowling club is on open land donated to the area by philanthropist Angela Burdett Coutts and has been used for bowling and tennis for more than a century. Its directors, however, said they had closed the club due to falling membership and instead applied to build housing.
The decision could cost Camden Council – who rejected the application – more than £1million, as the planning inspector, Kevin Gleeson, approving the development made the Town Hall liable for costs and struck out a request for developers to provide £600,000 worth of sports facilities as part of planning negotiations.
Council lawyers have now been asked to consider whether there are grounds to take the decision to a judicial review on the basis that the land should be used for sport.
In a further twist, the club directors say profits from the development will be shared out among their members, and not passed on to Bowls England, the national association for the sport.
Actor Fay Ripley, who stars in the hit TV series Cold Feet, campaigned against the project. She said: “This whole sordid fiasco is likely to cost Camden, and therefore us, the tax payers, £1millon. The open space designated for 100 years to sports is being replaced with expensive housing that will line the pockets of developers, but cost us dearly. It saddens me that people are no longer heard, that even though £600,000 was promised to Camden Council to mitigate the loss of this land, the developers no longer have to honour that promise. They are getting off scot free with big greedy smiles on their faces. How can the planning inspector be so easily bullied, even after having a sea of evidence from the council and community?”
Keith Northrup of the Mansfield Neighbours Group, who had fought the plans, said: “This is a story of greed without a happy ending – unless you happen to be the developer or a member of the Mansfield Bowling Club. It is particularly disgraceful that the developers have pursued cash-strapped Camden Council for the cost of the appeal.”
Highgate ward councillors were united in their opposition to the project. Green councillor Sian Berry called the decision “disgraceful,” while Labour councillors Oliver Lewis and Sally Gimson added: “The inspector ignored the fact this was an asset of community value.”
The bowling club directors now say work will push ahead, and said there would still be a level of sport as the Kenlyn Tennis Club, also on the site, would get an extra court added for their use, rising from two to three. Chairman Andy Docker told the New Journal he believed it was a “win-win” situation, adding that 53 per cent of the scheme was social housing and previously private land would be opened to the public.
He also confirmed that the club changed their articles of association at an emergency general meeting, meaning profits will be shared out equally among bowling club members and would not go to Bowls England.
He added: “There will be a community park and community tennis courts, paid for by the private enterprise of housing.”
Mr Docker declined to answer questions as to how much money each member was likely to get, nor the numbers on the membership roll. He added: “No one is walking away with fortunes.”