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Councillor criticised as ‘hypocritical’ as tennis court plan finally agreed

PUBLISHED: 20:40 11 November 2020 | UPDATED: 20:40 11 November 2020

Heigham Park. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Heigham Park. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

The city council has gone ahead with plans to pave over the city’s last grass tennis courts - in spite of a last-ditch attempt to divert the money elsewhere.

Residents protesting against the Heigham Park tennis court changes. Photo: John GreenawayResidents protesting against the Heigham Park tennis court changes. Photo: John Greenaway

Norwich’s Heigham Park tennis courts closed in 2017 and now the council is to spend over £400,000 to replace them with floodlit hard courts, as part of expanding the Norwich Parks Tennis service.

The scheme met with repeated objections from residents and opposition councillors, as well as a petition calling for funds to be spent on “people in urgent need”.

READ MORE: Last-ditch effort to stop council’s plans to pave over grass tennis courts

And during a meeting of the city council’s cabinet, held on Wednesday, November 11, Green Party councillor Denise Carlo asked whether the council had assessed the equalities impact of plans to award a £401,627.90 tender to Fosse Contracts Ltd to carry out the works.

Ms Carlo, who backed a petition opposing the plans for the park, also questioned claims from the city council that the new courts would offer low-cost tennis for schools and families.

“Heigham Park is situated in the second-least deprived ward in Norwich,” she said.

“Constructing three all-weather courts at Heigham Park using £262,000 from the general fund is capital spending which could otherwise be spent on essential projects in wards experiencing high levels of deprivation.”

But Matthew Packer, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “You originally wanted the courts to be kept as grass courts and run by a community group which would charge £60 a year.”

READ MORE: Calls to spend money for new tennis courts on people in ‘urgent need’

“It is significantly more expensive than the Norwich Parks Tennis £35 per year,” he added.

“£60 a year may not be expensive for you but it is for some of our residents. In every ward in Norwich are people facing financial difficulties. There are residents in your ward who face daily worries about finances - if you need me to take you on a ward walk, just let me know.

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“It is clear to me that you do not want this project to go ahead.

“I do find it hypocritical you say you’re concerned about the affordability of a service when you championed an alterative option up to twice as expensive.”

And Bob Cronk, neighbourhood director, said an equalities assessment had been done and could be provided to Ms Carlo.

He said the project would help tackle inequalities via an increase in tennis and sports provision.

Councillors voted to award the works contract to Fosse Ltd.

READ MORE: Last-ditch effort to stop council’s plans to pave over grass tennis courts


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