Parking impasse sees major Worthing bowls tournament cancelled

Action from the Worthing Unified Open Bowls
Action from the Worthing Unified Open Bowls

A parking impasse between bowlers and a council has spelled the end of a major bowls tournament in Worthing after nearly 90 years.

Organisers of the Worthing Unified Open Bowls tournament have cancelled the competition after Worthing Borough Council declined to continue offering free parking for competitors during the two-week event.

The tournament committee said the event generated in excess of £50,000 for the local economy each year – but the council argued it had to be fair to all residents when considering discounts.

Announcing the decision, a committee spokesman said: “The council has always maintained that they are committed to bowls in Worthing but they are adamant they will not reverse its decision.

“It is for this reason that the tournament committee has reluctantly had to advise the council that they are left with no alternative but to pull the plug.”

The committee said entrants had parked in the disused tennis courts adjacent to the park but they had now been resurfaced and integrated into the adjoining car park.

Bowlers were informed last year that they would not be able to enjoy free parking – a stance not changed by the council following a series of meetings.

Committee member Brian Dunne addressed councillors at a public meeting in December in an attempt to force a rethink. Click here for the full story.

The meeting saw cabinet member for environment Diane Guest repeat the decision but she offered to meet the bowlers again.

No agreement between the parties was reached before the committee announced the cancellation.

A Worthing Borough Council spokesman said: “We are disappointed that the organisers have seen fit to blame car park charges for the cancellation of the tournament and question whether this really is a disincentive for bowlers to play in this tournament.

“We have had several meetings with the organisers and offered them a number of heavily discounted options for cut-price parking for the duration of the tournament.”

The council denied it had refused to supply guaranteed designated parking places and highlighted its investment in upgrading the car park, in Lyndhurst Road.

The spokesman added: “We have to be seen to be fair to all residents, town centre workers, hospital visitors, tourists and indeed all organisations and sporting clubs who use the town centre car parks for sports, business and leisure pursuits.

“We should also add that we have invested heavily in bowls facilities and indeed we subsidise bowls more than any other sport in the borough.”

The committee thanked its sponsors and apologised to bowlers ‘all over the country’ who would ‘now be denied the chance to play in this historic, well-run and well-loved tournament’.

The Worthing open men’s competition began in 1933, with a ladies’ event running from 1944.

Falling numbers in the women’s section saw the first unified event held in 2009.

Worthing lost the men’s national championships in 2012. The prestigious event has been held in Royal Leamington Spa ever since.