Public meeting over controversial move to replace grass tennis courts in Norwich’s Heigham Park

Councillors, local residents and tennis lovers angry at proposals by the city council to turn the He

Councillors, local residents and tennis lovers angry at proposals by the city council to turn the Heigham Park grass tennis courts into all weather courts. Green councillors, Andrew Boswell, front left; Tim Jones, front centre; and Denise Carlo, front right. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

A public meeting has been organised over a controversial move which would see the final grass tennis courts left in Norwich's parks removed to make way for new all-weather courts.

Norwich City Council is working with the Lawn Tennis Association over a scheme which would replace the 10 grass courts in Heigham Park, off Recreation Road in the Golden Triangle.

The council says it wants to build on the success of the Norwich Parks Tennis project, which was introduced in Eaton Park in 2012.

Council leaders say that joining forces with the LTA could bring in funding to replace the courts, which will mean they can be used all year, rather than just the summer season.

But the potential changes have run into opposition and Denise Carlo, Green councillor for Nelson ward, has organised a public meeting on the issue.

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She said: 'It is important that residents, user groups and interest groups have the chance to discuss the proposals in principle before Norwich City Council submits the planning application to itself. Once submitted, it is highly likely that the council would be minded to approve the application.'

The Greens want to see a breakdown of the costs for the scheme and say there are already 10 floodlit all-weather tennis courts within walking and cycling distance of Heigham Park, including at Eaton Park and the UEA Sportspark.

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Ms Carlo said: 'The city council is going about this in the wrong way by trying to impose its plans. Discussing the options with the community first would be more in keeping with open, transparent and inclusive governance and with the city council's new 'Enabling Neighbourhoods' strategy.

'Rather than trying to professionalise what is sometimes simple casual play and requiring people to book all-weather courts on-line, the council should consider the health and social inclusion benefits of retaining the grass courts and allowing children and young people to play tennis on Heigham Park's soft courts for free.'

Roger Ryan, cabinet member for customer care and leisure at City Hall, has said the chance of a partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association was 'too good an opportunity to miss.

He said: 'This project is about improving facilities so more people use them.

'This council has an excellent track record of making sure, even in the face of government cuts, that our historic parks are well used and maintained.

'But we have to move with the times and look for external investment to protect these facilities for generations to come.'

He said people would get their say as part of the planning application process.

The public meeting will take place in St Peter's Jessopp Road Church from 6.30pm until 8pm on Thursday.

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