Norwich could be (game,) set (and match) to get a major boost to tennis as it looks to attract hundreds of thousands of pounds of investment into the sport.
This comes as the city council submits planning applications detailing proposals for four of Norwich’s seven existing tennis sites, marking the start of a proposed project to expand the successful Norwich Parks Tennis programme.
Currently the city council owns 10 grass and 18 hard courts, seven of which are already under the Norwich Parks Tennis programme. Planning applications are being submitted to refurbish hard courts at and install flood-lighting in Harford Park, Lakenham Recreation Ground and at three courts in Eaton Park.
There is also an application for Heigham Park, which is where the grass courts currently are. These grass courts have a hefty annual maintenance cost of around £42,000. With the income generated for these courts last year standing at under £3,000, it means the courts are heavily subsidised – a situation the council can’t maintain.
Rather than just close the grass courts, however, the council is proposing to imitate the success of a project it brought to Eaton Park by replacing the grass courts at Heigham Park with three all-weather floodlit ones and bringing 14 of the 18 courts under the Norwich Parks Tennis programme*.
If this expansion programme goes ahead, it would see tennis facilities under it being available for people to use for a low-cost household membership fee**.
For the expansion of the Norwich Parks Tennis to go ahead, the council would look to invest £140,000 from its capital programme (money it gets through things like selling council-owned assets) – a sum that equates to less than the sum it spends on 3.5 years’ worth of maintenance.
The very vast proportion of the investment into the project would come through the council being successful in attracting external funding. This includes approximately £195,000 it hopes to win from a bid to the LTA, along with £55,000 which will come from section 106 funding, which comes from planning charges paid by developers when building new developments into the city.
If planning permission is secured and the bid for grant funding is successful, the improvement work to the courts could be rolled out from the autumn of 2017.
Councillor Roger Ryan, cabinet member for customer care and leisure said: “These proposals would mean we could offer to the whole city excellent tennis facilities and expert coaching – making sure the sport is open and accessible to people of all ages and abilities. This is exciting to say the least.
Using public funds to heavily subsidise grass tennis is simply something we can’t do.
I am delighted, however, that we have been able to come up with a proposal that doesn’t mean just shutting facilities but, if our bid is successful, will see major external investment in our tennis provision – a testament to the quality of what is being offered. This would mean players get a real quality experience at top-notch facilities that are not a drain on the public purse.”
More about the planning applications
The four planning applications have been submitted by Norwich City Council’s parks and open spaces team. These have been received by the planning service and assigned case numbers.
As with all planning applications, the planning service will then assess whether all the documents required to start the planning process have been submitted. When it has been determined all relevant information has been submitted, the applications are ‘validated’ and the full details are published on the council’s website and the planning process, which includes public consultation will begin.
The application numbers are detailed below and all the associated documentation that forms the planning application will be published on www.norwich.gov.uk/planningapplications.
You will be able to view the detail as and when they are validated over the coming few days by clicking on the ‘View and comment on planning applications’ button.
- Heigham Park: 17/00485/NF3
- Harford Park: 17/00504/NF3
- Eaton Park: 17/00505/NF3
- Lakenham Recreation Ground: 17/00506/NF3
*The two courts at Bowthorpe Park and two at Alderman Walker Park, which are currently operate under a ‘turn up and play for free’ basis will not come under the Norwich Parks Tennis programme at this stage.
**Currently the cost of membership for Eaton Park stands at just £30 for a year (against the previous pay-to-play cost of £6.10 per hour for a full-paying adult). Membership brings additional benefits. Courts can be booked in advance online and it also gets you entry in the Wimbledon ticket ballot and two weeks’ free coaching.