Later this summer, work is due to start on the redevelopment of the tennis courts at Heigham Park.
The scheme will provide three modern, inclusive hard surface, all-weather, floodlit courts that will be available 52 weeks of the year. Work is also underway to redevelop the two courts at Lakenham Recreation Ground, again to provide all-weather hard courts.
The ten grass courts at Heigham Park have been closed since 2017. They required major investment to bring them up to standard, and realistically were only available for play during the summer months. The success of the courts at Eaton Park meant that extra all-weather courts were needed to meet additional demand for tennis in the city.
The council worked with stakeholders such as the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to develop plans to replace the grass courts with this modern, more accessible facility.
Community groups had initially expressed an interest in taking on the operation and management of the grass courts, but unfortunately their proposals did not meet the wider objective of Norwich Parks Tennis, which were, and continue to be, to provide affordable, accessible, and sustainable tennis provision to all city residents all year round.
Stakeholders, such as the Gardens Trust, LTA, Friends of Heigham Park, and the park’s tennis club were consulted in 2017 as part of the original Planning Application process. Heritage, equality and ecological impact assessments have also been carried out to inform our proposals and ensure the biodiversity of the area is protected.
Following changes to their national grant scheme, the LTA funding was no longer available and costs for the project had to be reviewed. The original proposals were amended because of consultation and assessments and the revised planning application was approved by the council in November 2018.
A Norwich City Council spokesperson said,
“From the very beginning, this project has been about improving facilities for our residents and investing in our historic and much-loved parks. It is also an important part of delivering our priority to improve health and wellbeing – more important now than ever.
“During the process we have listened to and considered, the views of community groups.
“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we’ve been able to move forward with our plans for the tennis expansion starting at Lakenham Recreation Ground recently, building on the success of previous Norwich Parks Tennis sites such as Eaton Park.
“The importance of delivering this sporting facility for our residents can’t be underestimated in terms of the associated health benefits as well as reducing anti-social behaviour and vandalism through the increased use of the park.”
As well as increasing physical activity, the project will also provide a reduced playing cost for users – from £6.70 per court, per hour to £35 per year (or 67p a week) and with the new courts will come with easily accessible, high quality coaching programmes, designed for a wide range of abilities and ages.
The annual maintenance cost to the taxpayer is also significantly reduced. The grass courts cost £42,000 per year to maintain and provided an income of £2,700, meaning they were having to be subsidised to the tune of £39,300 per year. The upgrade to all weather, low maintenance courts will save the council (and subsequently the taxpayer) £38,000 a year in maintenance costs.
The project, which also includes the new tennis facilities at Lakenham Recreation Ground, is costing £423,138 and is being entirely funded by a combination of capital funding from the city council, community infrastructure levy funds from the Greater Norwich Development Partnership and Section 106 funds for Lakenham.
Once complete, tennis courts that were once only available during park opening hours in the months of April to September will be enjoyed from 8am to 10pm for 52 weeks of the year.
The council are awaiting the start date from their contractors for work to commence on the courts, but it is expected to begin later in the summer.