FEARS an indoor bowling club in Milford Haven, seen as a lifeline for disabled bowlers, may be forced to halve its size by a library move, may not now go ahead.

Cash-strapped Pembrokeshire County Council has been looking at ways of saving money, with Milford Haven’s library, currently sited at Cedar Court on the town’s Haven’s Head Business Park, costing the local authority some £85,000 a year.

It has recently been proposed the library move to Milford Haven’s Meads leisure centre, a move which shocked users of the Meads’ indoor bowling club.

At a special meeting on Monday afternoon, attended by PCC Cabinet member for Finance Cllr Bob Kilmister and some 80 members of the public.

It was proposed to relocate the library to the Meads, with the loss of two of the four bowling rinks, which club members say would make it untenable.

Deputy Group Leader of Pembrokeshire U3A Indoor Bowls Club John Hodge said: “Our group plays three times a week for two hours, 52 weeks of the year, it’s a committed group, and there’s the disabled bowlers, some of them totally blind. One of them said to Mr Kilmister: ‘You don’t understand what it means to us, it’s a new lease of life’.

“I don’t think there was a dry eye in the hall, we were feeling what she was feeling.

“Old people and the disabled are an easy target.”

Steve Whitmore, of Pembrokeshire disabled bowls, said: “There’s no way on Earth you can put a library in with a bowls hall.”

He added: “We need to stop this, you are going to turn bowlers against librarians; reading between the lines it’s already decided.

“Some of our players play for Wales; they say they are going to take two rinks away, you wouldn’t get any club in there; it would screw the disabled community. It will ruin the lives of a lot of people.”

Disabled bowler Mary Blight, from Rosemarket, confined to a wheelchair, said she would be “devastated” if the club was forced to close.

Western Telegraph:

“We’ve become such a large club that the four rinks are used every Monday, if the proposed closure of the two lanes goes ahead it would jeopardise this bowls club for a lot of people.

“Bowls is my only means of having an afternoon out and meeting like-minded people, the bowls club has become a family.

“I have so many friends in the bowls club and they feel the same way, there’s no way the disabled bowls club would stay open, it would devastate a lot of people.”

Kerry Lees, of the Mount Estate, said the club had turned her son ‘Richey’ from a “scared rabbit” to an award-winner.

Richey, who suffered a stroke at the age of 42, lost his wife and family and was forced to move back home with his family.

“It was pathetic to see him, he was frightened of his own shadow,” said Kerry. “He went to bowls that first time and he was crying when I went out that door; after going there for a few weeks he looked forward to it so much. He goes every Thursday and actually helps people with Alzheimer’s.”

Kerry, speaking on behalf of Richey, said: “It’s such a precious group, they all seem to look after each other, it just breaks my heart, I just don’t know what we’d do; this is his life, he just lives to go to the bowls.”

Cabinet member for Finance Cllr Bob Kilmister described considering the option as “a horrible position to be in,” adding: “We went there to discuss a project Access to Services, relating to service users and reducing costs. One of the ideas floated was to move Milford Haven Library to the indoor bowling area.

“The indoor bowling doesn’t financially stack up and we’ve got a very expensive library in Milford Haven which would be better sited in another location.”

He said the meeting was a chance to consider the feasibility of reducing the bowling area to two rinks.

“It was a very forthright meeting where they put their views forward.

“Yes, this is an idea, but we haven’t made a decision, and at the moment we’re not likely to proceed.

“Having looked at the premises I have severe reservations that this is not a good idea. Yes, it is an idea we thought of, but the wider need we’re likely to proceed with.”

He conceded: “The financial considerations stack up wonderfully, on paper, I didn’t want to make a decision, but they took it that I’d made a decision.

“Everybody knows about our very well-publicised financial situation, but it’s not for the next financial year that it’s going to hit home; this is a project that, frankly, should’ve been done by the last administration.

“We still have the problem of moving out of the library; I’m hoping by the end of next week we will actually be able to tell the bowlers exactly what’s happening. It’s under consideration, but I personally think it will not go ahead.

“I can’t rule it out at the present moment, but I have no enthusiasm for it.”

He added: “There is a need to make the bowling club more viable, the contribution that the council gets for the space is ridiculous; I think they agreed at the meeting that the status quo wasn’t an option.”