BOWLING greens in Wharfedale and Aireborough could close as part of a new cost-cutting drive by Leeds City Council.

The authority has announced a consultation into halving the number of public outdoor bowling greens it manages to make annual savings of about £83,000.

The council currently has 62 bowling greens on 48 sites which have an overall cost of ‘around £4,000 per green largely made up of labour costs representing a total cost of £248,000’.

By closing 31 greens it estimates it would gain a net saving of £83,000 and allow it to to ‘enable a reduction of 4.5 full time equivalent gardeners’. The move, which could affect facilities in Otley, Yeadon, Rawdon and Horsforth, is part of a wider push to help plug the council’s projected £118 million budget gap for next year.

Local councillors, however, have condemned it as misguided and short-sighted. Councillor Sandy Lay (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) said: “Leeds do not understand the value of these facilities.

“They regard them as the preserve of pensioners from leafy suburbs and totally ignore the physical and mental benefits of playing what is in effect a sport.”

Councillor Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) said: “We regard this as a stereotypical view that ignores the health benefits of the game. Bowling greens are sports pitches and if they were classed as such there would be no discussion regarding their removal.

“Leeds would not contemplate closing a football pitch.”

Councillor Ryk Downes (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) added: “Our three local clubs - at Grove Hill and Wharfemeadows Park in Otley, and at Tarnfield Park in Yeadon - provide a valuable source of outdoor activity not just for the elderly but for both young and old.

“They also run courses for school children, adults with learning difficulties and dementia sufferers. Their contribution to the wellbeing of the community is immense and must not be lost.”

The council document says: “The stated aim is to reduce the number of bowling greens managed and maintained by the council from 62 to 31. This could be achieved in a number of different ways.”

The deadline for responding to the consultation, at, is 5pm on Monday, December 14.