Gran, 81, takes tennis court protest to the water as work set to start

Annie Holgate, 81, right, with her dog Buttons, displaying her protest banner as she cruises up the

Annie Holgate, 81, right, with her dog Buttons, displaying her protest banner as she cruises up the River Wensum at the Norwich Yacht Station. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

A gran who vowed to fight plans to resurface grass tennis courts with concrete to the very last has taken her protest to the water.

Annie Holgate is one of a number of opposers to Norwich City Council's Heigham Park tennis project, which will see it replace the existing grass courts with all-weather concrete surfaces.

Annie Holgate, 81, right, with her dog Buttons, displaying her protest banner as she cruises up the

Annie Holgate, 81, right, with her dog Buttons, displaying her protest banner as she cruises up the River Wensum at the Norwich Yacht Station. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

And her latest protest against the scheme saw her take to the Wensum with her pet dog Buttons beside her, displaying a banner against the plan as she floated down the river.

But her efforts may prove to be in vain, with the council revealing work is set to begin on the project this month.

City Hall has confirmed it has now received results of an independent ecological survey carried out by Hopkins Ecology to assess whether any protected species were inhabiting the area set to be paved.

Annie Holgate, 81, right, with her dog Buttons, displaying her protest banner as she cruises up the

Annie Holgate, 81, right, with her dog Buttons, displaying her protest banner as she cruises up the River Wensum at the Norwich Yacht Station. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

And the study did not highlight any concerns that would prevent the new courts from being built, meaning work will get under way later this month. This is despite a separate survey commissioned by the campaigners suggesting otherwise.


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A City Hall spokesman said: "Officers at the city council have reviewed the findings of the report and confirmed that it did not highlight any ecological concerns that would prevent the new tennis courts being built at that location."

The controversial scheme was first approved by the city council's planning team in 2017, with bosses saying it will improve accessibility to the sport and help improve physical health and fitness.

Annie Holgate, 81, right, with her dog Buttons, displaying her protest banner as she cruises up the

Annie Holgate, 81, right, with her dog Buttons, displaying her protest banner as she cruises up the River Wensum at the Norwich Yacht Station. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

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But it has faced fierce criticism from neighbours throughout.

And in recent weeks, critics have been locked in an ongoing dispute over displaying posters opposing the scheme, with a number removed by council staff.

So instead of risking another banner being removed, 81-year-old Mrs Holgate instead chose a different method of voicing her objection.

She said: "I will not just go away when the council is spending this sort of money at a time of crisis for so many people.

Annie Holgate, 81, right, with her dog Buttons, displaying her protest banner as she cruises up the

Annie Holgate, 81, right, with her dog Buttons, displaying her protest banner as she cruises up the River Wensum at the Norwich Yacht Station. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

"I will not be silenced - I'm going to bring the issue of the council spending so much of our money to benefit so few people to a wider audience."

She added that the boat protest was "a first step" and that she planned to continue opposing the revamp.


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