Grandmother, 80, furious after council removes park protest banner

Banner in Norwich's Heigham Park

Annie Holgate and her dog Buttons, with the banner she put up in Heigham Park. - Credit: Peter Cutting

An 80-year-old grandmother has hit out after council bosses removed her banner protesting about plans for tennis courts in a Norwich park.

But Norwich City Council said it was within its rights to remove it, because it was on property owned by the council, without permission.

Retired nurse Annie Holgate put the five metre long banner, which cost her £160, up on a hedge at Heigham Park, in Jessopp Road, on Wednesday, July 14.

The banner was in protest at the city council's plans to install three all-weather, floodlit, tennis courts at the park, replacing 10 grass tennis courts.

Banner removed from Heigham Park in Norwich

Annie Holgate and Buttons show where the banner was before it was removed. - Credit: Peter Cutting

But the city council removed it on Friday - to the chagrin of Mrs Holgate.

She said: "Whatever happened to free speech?

"People may not agree with me, that’s fair enough, but I’m saddened and disappointed that my banner was cut down.

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"Other banners and messages critical of the council’s approach which have been put along the hedge haven’t been touched. I must have got up somebody’s nose."

The city council confirmed it had the banner removed on Friday, because it had been placed on council property without permission.

Heigham Park, Norwich. Picture: Sonya Duncan.

Norwich City Council intends to install all-weather tennis courts in Heigham Park. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

But Mrs Holgate, who has previously spoken out against the new courts plan, said she intends to get another banner printed and put that one up in her own garden.

The council says the new courts will mean tennis can be played year round and will save maintenance costs on the grass courts.

But campaigners are calling on the council to pause the installation of those courts, saying the council should consult with people living nearby.

The city council says there was consultation as part of the planning process, when 120 people objected.

But the campaigners say that was not pre-application consultation with residents, which should have been done.

The council points to discussions with the Heigham Park Grass Courts Group, the Gardens Trust, Lawn Tennis Association, Friends of Heigham Park, and the park’s tennis club in 2017.

Permission for the new courts was granted in 2018 and work is due to start this summer.