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Community gathers to discuss historic tennis court’s future

PUBLISHED: 19:26 03 August 2018 | UPDATED: 19:26 03 August 2018

Members of Heigham Park Grass Tennis Group pose with Councillor Denise Carlo at a public meeting held at Jessop Road in Norwich. PHOTO: Sophie Smith

Members of Heigham Park Grass Tennis Group pose with Councillor Denise Carlo at a public meeting held at Jessop Road in Norwich. PHOTO: Sophie Smith

Archant

A public meeting was held to discuss the future of a historic tennis court, with a bold new plan to counter Norwich City Council proposals.

A public meeting was called at Jessop Road in Norwich to discuss Heigham Park tennis courts. PHOTO: Sophie SmithA public meeting was called at Jessop Road in Norwich to discuss Heigham Park tennis courts. PHOTO: Sophie Smith

Around 100 people gathered on Thursday evening at St Peter’s church on Jessop Road in Norwich.

The meeting was called by Heigham Park Grass Tennis Group, a collective created in March in response to council proposals to transform Heigham Park, off Recreation Road.

The 10 tennis courts were closed last summer after the scheme to replace them with three all-weather courts was withdrawn following around 60 objections.

Norwich City Council had applied to its own planning committee to replace them, linked to funding from the Lawn Tennis Association, and said it could no longer ‘heavily subsidise’ the maintenance of grass tennis courts.

However, a fresh application has been lodged for the site with flood lighting, prompting concern from residents about light pollution.

The group are proposing to take over the maintenance of the park, and have even made their own design to make it more commercially viable.

Their plans include splitting the site down the middle with a view of the pavilion, reducing the courts to four, and leaving a recreation space.

A system was suggested of £60 annual subscriptions, with one-off sessions at £7.

The group also estimated the annual balance over five years under their plan to be at £2,800.

Group secretary Gavin McFarlane said: “One key aspect of this is we’re not looking for an asset transfer.

“We are looking to manage and maintain the courts on the lines of the Croquet Club.”

The meeting was attended by three councillors from the Nelson ward, including Councillor Hugo Malik, who due to being on the planning committee was unable to comment, and Councillor Denise Carlo. No officers attended.

Councillor Carlo of the Green Party read out extracts from an independent heritage impact assessment commissioned by the council, which called the removal of Norwich’s last grass tennis courts ‘lamentable’.

Leslie Cunneen, garden historian, highlighted the park’s long community-based history as a heritage site.

The meeting was concluded by an agreement that the best way to counter the proposal is to object on the council website.

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