Brentwood bowls club warns of housing development amid threat of closure

Members of a picturesque Brentwood bowls club fear it faces closure for housing development following a borough council decision.

Hutton Poplars bowls club say they have the use of the lodge on the corner of Rayleigh Road and Poplar Drive until the end of September.

But after that they will no longer have any facilities such as lavatories or the kitchen, effectively forcing them to close.

They are now planning to write to residents nearby urging them to sign a petition opposing any plans that may materialise.

Brentwood Borough Council said discussions are ongoing with the club on “options for future operation”.

The green, parking area, small pavilion and lodge – one of the last remaining buildings of the former Hutton Poplars Recreational School for Poor Law children from Poplar – are all owned by Brentwood Borough Council.

Club members pay the council an annual membership fee of either £108 or £172 depending on age as well as a green fee for each time they play.

However, the council has not offered a lease for the green since the last one expired about five years ago and has now informed the club they will no longer be able to use the lodge from September.

Club member David Davies accused the council of forgetting the social value small clubs like Hutton Poplars bowls club offer the community while investing millions into larger ventures such as King George’s playing fields.

He said: “Where we are at the moment is our club will not be able to use the Lodge as from the end of September. Technically that means the end of the club.

“Why is it we can purchase the Baytree Centre and afford a development that is going to cost £100m? And then you look at our club – its beautiful setting and we know what they are going to do. My feeling is they’ll let it run down and then develop it.

“These facilities serve people. Individual people. Not corporations or financiers. We make society. There has to be connections. The council’s behaviour is so inappropriate by putting a small club out of the way. They don’t want us there as a club.”

Hutton Poplars lodge

In a letter to be sent to nearby residents, the club has warned of its worries the site will be developed and with that the loss of mature trees.

The lodge is one of a handful of buildings that remains of the Hutton Poplars Recreational School – dating from 1906 – a training school and home for Poor Law children from Poplar in East London.

The only buildings still in existence after the site was developed into housing are the lodge, the main school building and the dining hall and kitchens.

Hutton Poplars School now known as Bishops Hill Adult Community College still continues as a centre of learning.

They added there is precedence of similar sorts of sites within Hutton – the NHS blood bank in Crescent Drive was allowed to be developed into 86 apartments in 4 separate residential blocks at appeal in 2020

The former Essex Fire and Rescue headquarters close by in Rayleigh Road has been developed into a large care home.

The letter says: “You will already have seen the culling and cutting and removal of trees in the woodland area adjoining the bowls club along Rayleigh Road and the woodland continues to be the central green in the middle of the Hutton Poplars estate.

“So all in all a large area of land will become available and although Brentwood Borough Council allegedly have no immediate plans for the area vacated, we are all aware of what has happened to the former NHS blood bank in Crescent Drive, the Fire and Rescue Service head quarters opposite Hutton Poplars estate and various other local sites.

“We think it reasonable to assume that Hutton Populars Lodge and the adjoining bowling green and woodland will go the same way, whether now or in the future.”

It adds: “If our visions and expectations do materialise, then this will lead to even more persons, traffic and buildings works on Hutton Populars, coupled with the end of a valuable source of enjoyment for our senior residents and visitors, together with the loss of established and irreplaceable woodland.

“We think one of the last efforts we could make to the council to keep our club facilities and secure the attractive woodland setting would be to ask local residents to petition the council objecting to any likely development proposals.”

A spokesperson for Brentwood Borough Council said: “The bowls season finishes in September and discussions are ongoing with the club on options for their future operation.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter