ILKLEY Bowling Club will vote next month on whether to allow women to join as full members for the first time in its history.

The crown green bowls club on Skipton Road, which was founded in 1924, has around 1,700 full members who are eligible to vote in the ballot, which will be held at the King's Hall on Tuesday, March 3.

The vote has been called by the committee with the recommendation that the motion is approved. It was last voted on around seven years ago when it was substantially rejected by members.

Club chairman Alan Breese said: "We think that that most people recognise that society has moved on a long way in terms of not just single sex clubs but society at large has moved on and we feel that it is time to air the subject again.

"We as a committee have been approached by members wanting to call an AGM and there is a sense that some members want change."

Mr Breese said the club had benefited from a major refurbishment recently and this had provided a very attractive club to people - both men and women.

"We think we have a club now that is more in keeping with modern usage and modern tastes," he said. "The committee is behind changing the status and the committee recommends it is approved."

The club has booked the King's Hall for the vote as it is expecting a large turnout. Members will need to register and will then be provided with a ballot slip to vote. For the vote to be carried a two thirds majority is needed. A decision is expected the following day.

Mr Breese added: "Members have received supporting emails which explain that it is supported by the committee.

"It is not a legal requirement - we are within our rights to continue as a single sex club - but we can feel that the time is right to see if the membership agree and at the end of the day it is the members' vote, not the committee, that will determine this."

While the club does run mixed bowling teams and women have equal bowling status to men, they can currently only enter the bar as guests of members, and are banned completely during the week.

The main bar area is an entirely male preserve on weekdays and women are permitted to drink as 'associates' after 5pm from Friday-Sunday and on bank holidays.

Between 10 and 15 per cent of the active bowls players at the club are female and they may enter the bar during matches to purchase drinks, which they must then consume outside.

There are other areas of the premises that women may use, such as the lounge, and female bar staff are employed.

Visiting players and members' spouses are considered associate members. The club no longer holds private functions.

If the motion is passed there will be a transition period from July onwards with women who have associate status invited to apply for membership before applications from anyone who wishes to apply to become a member being consider from the next renewal period in April 2021.