A ONCE-popular bowling green could be turned into flats if another club does not take it on, neighbours fear.

Anne Mayoh, aged 78, and her older brother Arnold Coleman, aged 80, spent much of their childhood and adult life at the Howcroft bowling green, watching matches and having the occasional game with friends.

So when the bowling green closed along with the Howcroft Inn, many residents were devastated.

In May, 2012, a planning application to turn the pub into student accommodation — which 62 residents, including Mrs Mayoh, petitioned against — was rejected by a planning committee.

But a further application to change the pub into self-contained apartments was granted, and Mrs Mayoh, of nearby St George’s Court, and Mr Coleman believe the bowling green could meet the same fate if no one comes forward to restore the green to its former glory.

Civil engineers George Cox and Sons, which owns the land, has a large "to let" banner on the wall facing Topp Way — but so far no bowling association has taken an interest in it, despite the company offering it for “peppercorn rent”.

Mrs Mayoh said: “I know it’s a sign of the times that no one has taken it on, but my biggest fear is that in the end flats or student accommodation will be built on the land.

“I just wish someone somewhere would give it a bit of investment and TLC.

“I was born in this area so I have seen the bowling green back in the days when it was the place to be.

“There used to be regular matches played there, and in the summer there would be a beer festival and Morris dancers entertaining the locals.

“I used to go there with my dad and my brother, and when I had my kids they came with me to watch the bowls. More recently before it closed down we’d go and play a game.”

Ken Hayes, president of Bolton Flat Green Bowling Club, added: “As I see it, the problem within the Crown game is a combination of local government cutbacks, an ageing player population and a sense of apathy within the organisation of the game.

“Crown green has always been a relatively inexpensive game, subsidised by local authorities and social clubs of all shades.

“Nowadays however, financial reality is forcing the costs up, and some greens, like Howcroft, are under threat.”

John Walsh, development director at George Cox and Sons Ltd, said: “Unfortunately as no one has come forward we are concerned that the work required to bring it back up to a good playing standard may prove too onerous if not undertaken in the near future.”