Anger as city park still 'tatty' more than a year after pavilion fire
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
More than a year after its pavilion was ravaged by arson and nearly four years after its tennis courts were locked shut, a community has been left wondering what is going on with its local park.
The thatched tennis pavilion at Norwich's Heigham Park was gutted by a serious blaze, thought to be deliberate, in November 2019. Its grass tennis courts, meanwhile, were closed in 2017 in favour of now-approved plans to replace them with floodlit all-weather courts.
Work has not yet begun on restoring either project, with residents feeling the park has been left to rot in the interim - and many still bitterly opposed to a court upgrade they see as unnecessary and "out of scale".
A council spokesperson said work to install the new courts would begin in the summer for an autumn completion date, and that it also plans this summer to put out to tender the work to rebuild the pavilion.
The spokesperson said: "Heigham Park is one of the city's gems. Parks and open spaces play a key role in the health and well-being of people and it's important to invest in them."
But Denise Carlo, Green councillor for the city's Nelson Ward, said she had received multiple emails from constituents complaining about the state of the park.
She said: "A lot of people think it looks tatty and worn. Residents would rather the council looked after the courts and pavilion that are there instead of spending hundreds of thousands on new courts nobody wants.
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"Last year I even asked the council if the closed-off grass court area could be opened during lockdown as a space for recreation.
"Officers refused, and as a result the only playing field at Heigham Park has been used heavily, creating bare hard patches which may have to be closed in rotation while they are re-seeded.
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"The council has let it become very degraded."
Resident James Packham said the park was a "disgrace".
"Yes, we all want to see the pavilion repaired", he said, "but the fact the council is still pressing ahead with the court development when there's so much opposition is ridiculous."
Friends of Heigham Park's secretary Denusia Latosinski said the group were not taking a stance on what should happen to the park because of the sheer strength of local opinion.
"We all want the thatched pavilion replaced, but the tennis issue is beyond our remit", she said.