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

PUBLISHED: 18:20 02 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:20 02 June 2020

Heigham Park in Norwich. Pic: Dan Grimmer.

Heigham Park in Norwich. Pic: Dan Grimmer.

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A new petition is at the heart of fresh calls to save the city’s last grass tennis courts from being paved over by the council.

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

The tennis courts at Heigham Park, in Norwich, were closed by the city council in 2017, despite plans to replace them with hard surface courts being withdrawn.

And the council now plans to expand the Norwich Parks Tennis service and create new floodlit sites at Waterloo Park, Heigham Park and Lakenham Recreation Ground - funded by income from existing courts at Eaton Park.

The council agreed to spend £423,000 to replace grass courts and upgrade hard courts when it set its 2020-21 budget in February.

READ MORE: Norwich’s final grass tennis courts remain shut amid uncertainty over future

But the scheme, discussed at a city council cabinet meeting on Wednesday, March 11, has sparked fresh opposition, with people urging the council to spend the funds on “local people in need”.

A petition on the 38 Degrees campaign website calls for the council to spend “approximately £200,000 earmarked to create hard, floodlit courts towards spending that will benefit local people in real, urgent need”.

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The petition, started by Theresa Belton, states: “Many Norwich residents are facing hardship, and needs are going unmet.

“On top of deep cuts in government funding following years of austerity, the City Council has seen a huge loss of income due to Covid-19, and now says it is looking into a financial black hole.

READ MORE: Time to scrap Norwich tennis court revamp, say opponents, amid wait for cash

“The funds intended for the expansion of facilities for tennis players would be far more justly spent on addressing urgent everyday needs such as accommodation for the homeless, community safety measures and more children’s play areas.”

Denise Carlo, Green Party councillor for Nelson Ward, said: “It would be appalling if the council went ahead and spent in excess of £200,000 of public money on three floodlit all-weather courts at Heigham Park when the council has a big black hole in its finances and Norwich residents have many more urgent needs at this difficult time. Allowing the former grass courts area to be used for informal grass recreation rather than build hard courts would free up a large sum for spending on essential needs.

“It would also be in keeping with Heigham Park’s historic green character”.

A spokesperson for Norwich city council said: “We have nothing to add, as our position hasn’t changed.”

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