Defiant grandmother vows to face down bulldozers at city park

Annie Holgate, and her dog Buttons, holding a protest against Norwich City Council's revamp of Heigh

Annie Holgate, and her dog Buttons, holding a protest against Norwich City Council's revamp of Heigham Park's tennis courts as a misuse of public money which should be spent where it is needed in poorer parts of the city. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

A defiant grandmother has vowed to do whatever it takes to block a £200,000 revamp of a city park’s tennis courts - including staging a daily protest “come rain, come shine”.

Annie Holgate's protest board, against Norwich City Council's revamp of Heigham Park's tennis courts

Annie Holgate's protest board, against Norwich City Council's revamp of Heigham Park's tennis courts as a misuse of public money which should be spent where it is needed in poorer parts of the city. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Norwich City Council is pushing forward with controversial plans to pave over the grass courts at Heigham Park, replacing them with new, floodlit hard courts.

It said they would offer “an affordable sports facility all year round for the many, not the few”.

But the scheme has been met with fierce opposition and several protests have already been held, both from tennis enthusiasts upset at the loss of the city’s only grass courts and neighbours to the park.

One of these is 80-year-old grandmother Annie Holgate, who lives on Jessop Road and who said she would sit outside the park every weekday from 2.45pm to make her voice heard - even if put her in the path of bulldozers.

Annie Holgate, and her dog Buttons, holding a protest against Norwich City Council's revamp of Heigh

Annie Holgate, and her dog Buttons, holding a protest against Norwich City Council's revamp of Heigham Park's tennis courts as a misuse of public money which should be spent where it is needed in poorer parts of the city. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020


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She said: “I intend to sit by the park for an hour every afternoon, come rain or shine, and if needed get in the way of the construction company who get the contract to destroy this green space.

“I know I might not make any difference, but I feel I owe it to my conscience to do whatever it takes to try and stop this farcical vanity project.

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“Even before Covid-19 it seemed a bizarre way to spend nearly a quarter of a million pounds, but in times of crisis surely the money can be better used?”

Matthew Packer, City Hall’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “One of the key objectives of the council is to invest resource and energy into enabling people to live well. And it is with this outcome in mind, that we saw through the success of our bid for such a considerable sum of external funding.

Annie Holgate, and her dog Buttons, holding a protest against Norwich City Council's revamp of Heigh

Annie Holgate, and her dog Buttons, holding a protest against Norwich City Council's revamp of Heigham Park's tennis courts as a misuse of public money which should be spent where it is needed in poorer parts of the city. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

“The expansion of the Norwich Parks Tennis project will see investment in Nelson and Lakenham, two wards which vary considerably when you look at employment and health outcomes.

“The improved physical and mental health outcomes for those who’ll now have this opportunity cannot be overemphasised.”

He added that the site would be lit with LED bulbs in a bit to limit light pollution and that part of its aim was to help reduce antisocial behaviour.

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