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Whole new ball game as beach sport planned for bowling green

THE serene image of the old-style bowling green in Scotland faces being shaken up by the glamour and toned bronzed bodies of the hugely popular Olympic sport of beach volleyball.

ALL CHANGE: The serene past-time of bowling could be replaced in Edinburgh by the more lively and glamorous Olympic sport of beach volleyball if the plans get the go-ahead.
ALL CHANGE: The serene past-time of bowling could be replaced in Edinburgh by the more lively and glamorous Olympic sport of beach volleyball if the plans get the go-ahead.

A beach volleyball court is being planned for an under-used bowling green in ­Edinburgh as the lawn sport ­struggles to attract younger generations.

The local authority is looking at new ways of making use of redundant recreation spaces which may also see some greens transformed into vegetable gardens.

Edinburgh City Council also said allotments or play areas could soon neighbour some ­bowling greens as part of the plan to ­overhaul under-used sites.

A national bowling source suggested the plans could be ­replicated by other councils.

The source warned that ­facilities to further the sport that has produced Scottish indoor and outdoor world leaders such as Alex Marshall and Willie Wood are still needed and could be under threat.

The first raft of proposals being rolled out by Edinburgh City Council would result in seven of the 15 public bowling greens maintained by the local authority being put to alternative use in response to the declining levels of demand.

Bowling sources connected to the national body confirmed the number of bowlers was in decline, although no more so than in some other sports, it was claimed.

The council move would include a proposal by the Scottish Volleyball Association to convert a Leith Links green into a beach volleyball court, tennis courts replacing a green at Balgreen and ­implementing a suggestion by children at the city's Broughton Primary School to use space there for sporting activities and food-growing.

A consultation carried out with members of the bowling community found there was scope to reduce the number of "playable greens" on the sites, with extended opening hours and improved ­booking systems accommodating current users, the council said.

Participants also agreed that alternative uses for redundant greens could add value to sites of the historic game.

Proposals for new uses are now to be investigated in consultation with community councils and other interested groups within communities, and it is claimed the new ideas would add to innovative projects such as Leith Links Tennis and Petanque Project, opened late last year on the park site.

The council's recreation arm - Edinburgh Leisure - took the ­decision to close Portobello Indoor Bowling Centre in June last year after visitor numbers were found to have dropped significantly over the previous five years.

The centre's conversion into a soft play area and gymnastics hub was expected to double the usage, the council claimed.

Lesley Hinds, Edinburgh's convener of transport and environment, said: "These plans will make the best use of local sites to provide new and exciting opportunities for the community, ­potentially improving facilities for young, disabled and elderly people.

"There is no doubt public ­bowling greens serve as an invaluable source of interaction and leisure for local groups and we hope the addition of new activities and provisions will only go to enhance this."

A spokeman for Bowls Scotland said that many consider ­Scotland's bowling teams and individuals to have been the most successful group of medal winners in Commonwealth Games history and further victories are hoped for later this year in Glasgow.

The council said that, in ­addition to bowling clubs using public bowling greens, there are also approximately 58 private bowling clubs in the Edinburgh area which are self-governed organisations who are affiliated to the national governing body for outdoor lawn bowls in Scotland, Bowls Scotland.

A council spokesman said: "A number of these clubs lease the land from the council at a peppercorn rate."

A report to be considered at the next Edinburgh transport and environment committee will review the plans in more detail.

Changes to the greens would take place across four sites owned by Edinburgh City Council and they include Balgreen, Leith Links, Powderhall and Victoria Park.

Figures reported by Edinburgh Leisure, which also manages ­bookings and pavilions for the sites, show a significant drop in the number of people using ­bowling greens since 2007, resulting in many of them being under-used.

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