Elsenham Bowls Club was the idea of Dave Verlander who put his ideas to a few people who agreed it was worth further investigation. Dave organised an open meeting in November 1994 for anyone who was interested in developing a Bowls facility in the village. At this meeting ideas and plans were discussed and it was agreed to build a green on the playing fields, near to the tennis courts, leaving room for a club house at a later date.
The costs of such a huge project were presented and discussed. The only way it was going to be possible was with a Lottery Grant and a lot of hard work. The majority of people present were in favour of moving ahead. A committee was elected, which consisted of Dave Verlander, Peter Clear, Ray Hutchin (Treasurer) Sue Sell (Secretary) Brian Williams, Mike Sell and Roy Withers.
At the first committee meeting Dave Verlander was elected as chairperson. During the first year the committee started to set about preparing an application for a Lottery grant. This involved talking to various people, gleaning information on as much relevant items as possible and putting together a very detailed business plan. The business plan involved the background to the project, the potential use, the facilities we hoped to provide, organisation and administration plans along with the normal budgets and cash flow projections. Within all this we had to ensure we had taken into account all relevant health & safety issues and facilities for the disabled.
We had to ensure we got our application right first time, as if we failed in our bid we would have to wait a full year before we could apply again. One of the first tasks was to talk to the Recreation Manager from Uttlesford District Council a Miss Alison Hinton. At a meeting with her, she ran through the Lottery grant application in detail. She advised us that it would be better if we went for the club house at the same time as the green. A decision was made to incorporate the club house into the scheme at this stage as well. This entailed preparing building plans, building costs along with alterations to the business plan that was now underway.
Progress was now being made and by October 1995, having already been promised a lease by the Parish Council for the green and club house, we had now obtained outline planning consent as well. Fund raising was going ahead and regular events were being held, apart from the normal Quiz nights, etc., we were trying to hold different functions such as Jazz Evenings and Millionaires Nights. We also ran some carpet bowls evenings.
In November 1995 a Special Meeting was held to update members and to also form a social committee, this was to relieve the main committee of some of the work during a very busy period. At this stage we expected an answer on our Lottery Application some time in late summer 1996, with all things being well we were looking forward to the prospect of being able to bowl in April 1998. A social committee was formed with Sheilagh Bell (Chairperson), Jean Platt, Tim Pryke and Do Hacket along with the three officials from the main committee also sitting on the social committee.
The AGM held in March 1996 was well attended. Bob Weston was elected as a representative of the Parish Council to the committee. The Lottery grant was presented to the members and the application went off a few days after this meeting. We agreed to close our founder membership within the next few months and the membership stood at 101 founder members, when it was finally withdrawn.
In July 1996 the lease was negotiated with the Parish Council for a period of 60 years. We had now spoken to the local VAT office (we had now established we would be partially liable for VAT), the good news being that we could claim some of the VAT back on the construction costs, the bad news being we had to now register for VAT and rework all our budgets and cash flow figures. We were also now aware of a rule change that meant we were not now allowed to apply for a Sportsmatch grant at the same time as a Lottery grant. We therefore had to rework our lottery grant application figures and submitted these to the lottery people in August 1996. This would now mean we would not get a decision on our application until later than initially expected.
The club were invited to play Epping Bowls Club in a friendly match on the 28th September 1996. This was gratefully accepted and Elsenham Bowls Club played its first match (losing in great style to a very friendly team).
In December 1996 we were asked to supply more information following the extra submission and replied to these minor queries, hoping a decision would follow quickly, but things dragged on. On the day of our AGM in March 1997, Dave Verlander telephoned the Lottery people to see if there was any news. There was, the good news was that they had agreed our application in principle, but we had to satisfy four conditions and a letter was in the post. The letter duly arrived and the conditions were that we had to redesign the club house to accommodate short mat bowls, to obtain full planning permission, to supply a copy of the lease and to provide a sports development plan. Non of these being a major hurdle we set about getting these items sorted out and replied to the lottery people in May 1997. We were now asking for a bit more funding, due to the redesign of the club house and a possible increase in costs due to the delay we had faced because of the time taken with our Lottery application. The final figure now on our business plan was a requirement of £195,053, with the lottery hopefully supplying £119,897 and the club having to find £75,156 through fund raising, subs, membership and other loans, business sponsorship and self-help. We supplied the Lease and Planning permission as soon as these had received by ourselves.
During the summer of 1997 we played various friendly matches at local clubs and continued to fund raise all year. Jean Platt had been asked to join the committee and in June 1997 Roy Withers resigned from the committee. A small project committee was formed to oversee the day to day running of the building project, so that things could move forward as quickly as possible. This consisted of Peter Clear, Ray Hutchin and Bob Weston.
The firm offer of the lottery grant finally came in October 1997 and was duly accepted. Work was then started on the green in the last week of October 1997. The contractors, Two County, made good progress and the weather held for most of the time. This enabled work on the green to be completed before Christmas, with members helping to ‘tread in’ the soil on the green. The turf was laid in the week commencing 17th December 1997. This just left the water system to be installed by the green contractors and then the task of building the Club House in the first half of 1998.
At a Special General Meeting in December 1997 a few changes to the constitution were agreed and the Trustees were elected (Peter Clear, Ray Hutchin and Dick Haggerwood). The fund raising was on target and everyone was looking forward to being able to play on the green sometime in the late summer of 1998.
To be continued...