Campaigners, residents and councillors have implored the council to save a cherished indoor bowls hall which is set to disappear within the next few years.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) last night awarded a contract to Greenwich Leisure Ltd (LTD) to run leisure facilities in the town, including rebuilding a new leisure centre at Rivermead by summer 2022.

The indoor bowls hall at Rivermead will not be replaced, which has raised concern among many in the community.

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A spokesman for Reading Bowling Club called the closure “deeply disappointing but not entirely unexpected”.

The club spokesman added: “I do find it more than a little surprising that, in a town as big and sprawling as Reading, you don’t feel that having two indoor bowls halls is feasible, given that they are either side of the town and serve totally different areas.

“Anyone knowing anything about Reading will appreciate how inconvenient it is to travel from one side of the town to the other to get to Whiteknights.”

The only other indoor bowls club facility in Reading is in Whiteknights, 3.8 miles away.

RBC says Whiteknights Indoor Bowling Club has “sufficient capacity to absorb the Rivermead Bowls Club members”.

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The bowls club said membership has dwindled at Rivermead because of the lack of improvements to the bowls hall and the disruption of work on the Cow Lane bridges.

“Had Rivermead had even half the amount of money spent on it as has been spent on Whiteknights I am sure we would have attracted many more members”, the club spokesman added.

Concern was raised at how partially-sighted bowlers will be catered for as Whiteknights but the indoor bowls club website does state that regular sessions are held for blind and visually handicapped bowlers.

Conservative councillor David Stevens called for a rethink at the Policy committee meeting last night, but the controlling Labour group stuck with its decision to not replace the bowls club facility.

How the closure will affect members

The council’s report on its leisure plans admits the closure of the indoor bowls hall “may have a negative impact, principally on members of the club which is approximately 250 people”.

Helen Eales, whose parents are members of Reading Bowling Club, said: “Closing this club with have such a detrimental effect on so many of the members’ lives, most of whom are in their 70s, 80s and 90s.

“I am speaking up for the members who don’t even access to a computer and who won’t be heard, but who are truly devastated at this news.

“The bowls club provides a social outlet to otherwise lonely older people, it gives them the exercise they need and the cognitive demands of the games means it helps fight off dementia.

“Many of these people have lost their husbands or wives, their friends, and often their children have moved away.

“For so many people, the bowls club is their means of social contact, their means of contact with the outside world.”