Controversial bid to replace Norwich’s last public grass tennis courts revived

The tennis courts at Heigham Park are locked up. Pic: Dan Grimmer.

The tennis courts at Heigham Park are locked up. Pic: Dan Grimmer. - Credit: Archant

Controversial proposals which would see Norwich's last public grass tennis courts disappear have been revived, but people living nearby have not given up hope of saving them.

Flashback to when the courts were in use. Photo: Bill Smith

Flashback to when the courts were in use. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

The 10 tennis courts in Heigham Park, off Recreation Road, were closed last summer, after a scheme to replace them with three all-weather courts was withdrawn.

Norwich City Council had applied to its own planning committee to replace them, linked to funding from the Lawn Tennis Association.

The council said it could no longer 'heavily subsidise' the maintenance of grass tennis courts.

But, with some 60 objections, including from The Gardens Trust, who said it did not respect the Grade II listed park's historic status, it was withdrawn. Since then, the courts have been under lock and key.

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However, a fresh application has now been lodged for three all-weather courts, with flood lighting.

In support of the application, Simon Meek, parks and open spaces manager, said 'To continue to deliver services in these challenging times there is a need to look for new ways to deliver them, or risk losing them. The current way of delivering publicly accessible tennis in the parks is not sustainable.

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'This application for three all‐weather courts at Heigham Park will not only ensure a continuation of tennis provision in the park, it will also support the expansion of Norwich Parks Tennis, a delivery model which has proved successful in delivering affordable and financially sustainable tennis and increasing participation in the sport at Eaton Park.'

But a group of local people have formed the Heigham Park Grass Courts Group and want to take on the running and maintenance of part of the courts, so a grass court survives.

They have recently published a business case for taking on the responsibility and Gavin McFarlane, secretary of the group, said: 'This is a great opportunity for the cash-strapped council to hand over the responsibility for grass tennis in Heigham Park to an organisation with the people and resources to manage the courts properly, both now and in the longer term.'

However, Mr Meek said a decision has been made not to consider requests to transfer the assets to a community group.

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