September 28, 2008

Club is Bowled Over By Sudden Green Eviction

By Dave Blackhurst

Bowlers have been turfed off a 170-year-old green to make way for a health centre.

The Kings Arms bowling club, which played on the site of the Meir pub, has been made homeless as Stoke-on-Trent Primary Care Trust (PCT) prepares to flatten the site.

Bulldozers will move in over the next few days to make way for a three-storey health centre serving tens of thousands of people.

Club secretary Roy Ward - also chairman of the Kings Arms Action Group - said: "The bowling green has flourished since Victorian times. The PCT gave us less than 12 hours' notice to vacate it and shift pounds7,000 of lawn-mowers from the green's lock-up.

"This club had 50 bowlers, nine teams and two children's teams and the exercise is good for people. At a stroke they have destroyed all that history and tradition.

"Meir badly needs a new health centre but there were other sites for that.

"We had been assured by PCT chairman, Paul Warsop, that once the new centre had gone up we could go back to the bowling green. Since his sad death in May they have reneged on his promise."

Now Mr Ward is to meet Stoke-on-Trent South MP Rob Flello and councillors to press for an order for the PCT to provide a another bowling green in the vicinity as part of any planning consent.

City NHS officials have promised to replace the pub with a building of "significant, modern architectural merit" and will first have a public consultation exercise before a brick is laid.

Ann Pursey, chief executive of Prima 200, which is redeveloping the Weston Road site with the PCT, said: "The PCT and Prima 200 have worked very hard over the last four months to help the bowling club continue to access and use the site after it was closed to the public.

"Because it was due to become a construction site, the club was offered and signed a 'tenancy at will', a temporary licence which clearly set out the option for either party to offer instant notice.

"When the club was given notice it was for important health and safety reasons. The demolition contractor was about to begin removing hazardous asbestos waste."

PCT chief executive Graham Urwin said: "The development of a new health facility on the site will provide everybody who is registered with a GP in Meir with more health services all under one roof, in a fantastic 21st century facility."

Meir councillor John Daniels said: "Having heard more about the PCT's plans for the new centre and knowing how Meir needs better health and care facilities, I am looking forward to the opening of the centre."

As part of a programme to sweep away the city's crumbling health buildings, the same private-public partnership between the PCT and Prima 200 has already brought new health centres to Packmoor, Fenton and Shelton, with more to come in Middleport and Cobridge.

(c) 2008 Sentinel, The (Stoke-on-Trent UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.