Crawley Borough Council has made a u-turn on the future of bowls at K2 by saying it will promote membership while delaying plans to remove the bowls hall.
The controversial move was part of a £650,000 refurbishment project, which also includes expansion of the gymnastics hall and adaptations to make the centre suitable for music and comedy acts.
The council had argued that numbers using the bowls hall were declining while the gymnastics club had a long waiting list. Their plans were backed up by a survey showing most people were in support of the changes.
But opposition grew, a campaign started against them and last week Cllr Duncan Crow, cabinet member for leisure and culture, said they were putting it all on hold for a year to assess usage of the bowls hall.
He said: “It’s important that we ensure that any decisions taken to change the fabric of K2 Crawley are made with as much evidence as possible. The council, Freedom Leisure and the bowlers need to work together and do all we can to raise the number of people using this facility.
“Let’s see what we can do in the meantime to promote bowls at K2 Crawley and to try to reverse the decline in recent years of the number of people taking part.
“We’ll revisit these plans in a year’s time once we’ve been able to identify how well – or otherwise – the bowls hall is used.”
The Labour opposition who campaigned with residents welcomed the decision.
Cllr Chris Mullins, shadow portfolio holder for leisure and cultural services, said: “The campaign run by Crawley Labour has helped make the Tories rethink this plan and allow the older generation in our town to keep their vital facilities in the short term.
“At K2, we need a balanced programme for the whole community without losing actives that are enjoyed by a section of our community.”
But groups are left wondering what the future holds. Sally-Anne Warner from Hawth Gymnastics said: “What can I say. It is a case of having to wait and see. And yes our waiting list grows daily.”
Alan Breed from Crawley Bowls, one of at least 20 bowls groups who use the K2 said: “We’ve been doing it down there for years - not just at K2, but also the old leisure centre for 25 years. I’m 84 and it’s the only exercise I get. It’s all up in the air.”