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

PUBLISHED: 17:01 20 August 2019 | UPDATED: 18:56 20 August 2019

Protests outside City Hall in Norwich over Heigham Park tennis courts when the application was approved last summer. Pic: Neil Perry.

Protests outside City Hall in Norwich over Heigham Park tennis courts when the application was approved last summer. Pic: Neil Perry.

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Tennis courts which closed two years ago remain shut, with council bosses yet to secure grants to turn them into all-weather courts - which people living nearby say they do not want.

Heigham Park in Norwich. Pic: Dan Grimmer.Heigham Park in Norwich. Pic: Dan Grimmer.

The 10 grass tennis courts in Heigham Park in Norwich closed in 2017, after a scheme to replace them with three all-weather courts, partly-funded by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), was withdrawn amid objections.

A fresh application was approved last year, but it has emerged LTA funding is no longer available.

Green city councillor Denise Carlo says the planning committee was told the scheme would be part-funded by the LTA and might have made a different decision had it known cash would not be available.

The council wants to spend more than £430,000 on the changes at Heigham Park, along with refurbished hard courts and floodlighting at Harford Park and Lakenham Recreation Ground.

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

But with no LTA funding, it means the council is depending on money from Sport England to add to just over £260,000 of its own cash and about £56,000 from developer money for work at Lakenham, which must be used this year.

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Ms Carlo says the council should abandon its plans for the Heigham Park courts, saying it is not what local people want.

An offer by the Heigham Park Grass Courts Group offered to take on the running of four of the grass courts was rejected.

City councillor Matthew Packer. Pic: Labour Party.City councillor Matthew Packer. Pic: Labour Party.

She said: "Even if the Sports England application is successful, the council has got its priorities badly wrong in seeking to spend its own money on unwanted all-weather tennis courts in a relatively affluent area."

The council says it was "made very clear" at planning committee that permission is determined on the basis of planning policy, not on whether funding is available.

Labour's Matthew Packer, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: "Cllr Carlo has a very selective memory on a number of points she raises on this topic.

"If she had been supportive of improving these facilities from the start to make them accessible, affordable and sustainable, then there would already be an all-weather tennis provision at Heigham Park.

Green city counciloor Denise Carlo. Picture: Neil DidsburyGreen city counciloor Denise Carlo. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"I want these tennis courts to be used by everyone which is why our plan is to make them available to the many, not the few."

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