Heartbroken bowlers are struggling to come to terms with the loss of their treasured green, which is to be ripped up to make way for houses.
Local residents who use “The Famous Pagefield” green at the back of the Grade II listed pub on Gidlow Lane, were left devastated when plans to develop the building and accompanying lands were rubber stamped by councillors despite their emotional pleas.
More than 100 people use the space, playing with a variety of clubs up to five times a week, and for many it is a vital lifeline to the community and a means of valuable exercise.
The town hall has said it will use Section 106 money from the developers to upgrade the Great Acre bowling hub in Whelley, more than half an hour away on public transport for many current Pagefield users.
Jimmy Dawson, 86, who lives off Gidlow Lane, said: “I have been using the green for more than 20 years and there are many, many bowlers, not just from Wigan but from all around the area who have, and still are using this green for not just the bowling, but the pleasure of meeting so many friends.
“During my time, I have made so many both male and female. Friendship is something that money can never buy, and without the Pagefield these are friends that I never would have met and this applies to most of the bowlers who are still taking part to this day.”
Jimmy, who has been a widower since the death of his “darling wife Marie” three years ago, now bowls on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the green which is just a five minute walk from his house.
He is concerned that the journey to the green in Whelley, which will take him an hour in total including getting to and from the bus-stop, will be too much for many of the current members, and is pleading with Wigan Council to use the £30,000 from developers to do up the greens in Mesnes Park for the benefit of the wider bowling community. “Great Acre is not even in the local vicinity,” said Jimmy. “It is very difficult, traffic-wise, for bowlers without transport to get to - and none of the bowlers want to go there anyway.
“The green is nowhere near as the standard of the Pagefield green. The money could be better spent by developing and fencing even one of the three greens in Wigan’s Mesnes Park- just a stone’s throw away.”
The Mesnes Park Bowling Pavilion was refurbished with money from a £6.1m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, reaching completion just under four years ago in September 2013. But it has been padlocked for the past two years with no sign of reopening in the near future.
Jimmy does not only condemn the council’s lack of interest in the social significance of the green, but the “lack of planning” that has gone into finding a suitable alternative.
“There are 12 teams who already play on the Pagefield,” he said. “Each team consists of around 12 players. How on earth are these 12 teams going to be fitted into playing on the Greact Acre alongside the teams that are already there?
“Some of the other bowlers attended a meeting of the local planning department, and quite a few councillors represented the bowlers, and householders living nearby to the Pagefield. But all of this is a waste of time. It appeared that the council had decided what they wanted to do and that was final.”
The original application for apartments and houses at the Pagefield site, was objected to by Sport England, who were against the loss of a leisure facility serving so many people.
However, the authority soon withdrew its objection on the developers’ second submission as they were placated by promises of an “alternative green” nearby.
Lisa Nandy, Wigan MP, also fought against the plans.
She said: “The redevelopment of the Pagefield Hotel has understandably left a number of residents concerned about the future of the adjoining crown bowling green. With more than 100 members and causal players, the Pagefield green is a much-valued facility for local people. I therefore made representations on behalf of a number of constituents, both to the council and to Sport England, to oppose plans to close the Pagefield site. I will continue to work closely with residents and local councillors who want to find a more agreeable outcome.”