12:26 1 August 2022
1:00 p.m. August 1, 2022
Efforts to save a town bowling club from a 1,200pc rent hike have intensified with calls to support a public petition.
Nearly 600 people have signed the online version of the ‘Save GW Staniforth Bowls Club’ petition, with hundreds more reportedly signing hard copies in Thetford.
The 55-member South Norfolk club, founded in 1951, expressed their shock last month after learning that its owner, the Staniforth Trust, was planning to raise the annual rent from £300 to 3,950 £.
They warned that such a rise would mean the club would have to close, leaving Thetford as the biggest town in England without a bowling green.
The bowls club and trust are named after George Wild Staniforth, who died in 1947, leaving his home, gardens and fortune to the town of Thetford.
The rent hike comes despite club members looking after and paying for all maintenance on the site, near St Giles’ Lane in the town centre.
The Staniforth Trust said the decision to raise the rent was taken after an independent assessment of King’s House Gardens.
However, chairman Stuart Wright said he hoped a compromise could be found and the bowls club needed to “make the case” for what it could afford.
The petition was then launched, with bowls club secretary John Wright saying: ‘I want to thank everyone who has bothered to sign so far.
‘We are coordinating this petition which will be presented to the trustees of the GW Staniforth Trust asking them to reconsider their decision to raise the rent and to work with and support the bowls club so that it can continue to operate.’
He added that the annual subscription fee would have to be increased from £50 a year to £150 a year to meet the rent increase, which he called “completely unworkable”.
District Councilor Stuart Terry supports the club. He said: “We know that George Staniforth, who gave the land and buildings to the Trust, was a keen bocce enthusiast himself.
“I’m sure he would be disappointed to see the end of this club after more than 71 years and I hope the directors will reverse their decision.”
Hard copies of the petition can be found at the Bowls Club, the Leaping Hare Information Center and the Charles Burrell Center. The online petition can be signed at chng.it/VwKnTPHmfd.