COUNTY NEWS: Sussex bowls event ‘under threat’ after council’s parking decision

The Worthing Unified Open Bowls Tournament in action
The Worthing Unified Open Bowls Tournament in action
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A Sussex town could lose its last major bowls tournament if a deal offering free parking to competitors is withdrawn, one of its organisers has claimed.

Worthing Unified Open Bowls Tournament committee member Brian Dunne said an open bowls event had been running in the town for around 90 years – a tradition which could end if Worthing Borough Council did not continue its support of the event.

The event attracts bowlers from across Sussex and beyond every year.

Addressing councillors at a meeting on Tuesday, he said: “Up until this point we have been able to offer participants free parking for the duration, however recent communications from the council indicate this may no longer be the case.

“The council has always maintained it would like to keep bowls in Worthing. Having lost the nationals surely we don’t want this to happen again. Now is the time for the council to prove its point.”

Cabinet member for environment Diane Guest said she understood the town’s historic connection with bowls but the council was not prepared to commit to ongoing free parking for the two-week tournament.

Her response prompted Mr Dunne to claim the decision would see the tournament cancelled. He said: “It is the Worthing Bowls committee’s view that if the council can’t commit to free parking each year then there will be no alternative for us but to cancel the tournament forthwith.

“Once it is gone, that is it. It won’t come back. There will be no bowls in Worthing, what was once known as the home of bowls.”

The committee left the meeting with a glimmer of hope as Mrs Guest said: “What we are prepared to do is open the doors for discussion.”

The tournament’s representative left without confirmation the council would keep to its pledge of supporting next year’s event.

Worthing lost the mens’ national championships in 2012.

The prestigious event has been held in Royal Leamington Spa ever since.