Neighbours rally at park amid concern over start of tennis court work

Campaigners at Heigham Park.

Campaigners at Heigham Park. - Credit: Jessica Coppins

Fears that council contractors were about to begin construction of controversial tennis courts prompted neighbours to rally at a Norwich park.

Contractors from Norwich City Council arrived at Heigham Park on Tueday morning, sparking concern work to replace 10 grass courts with three all-weather, floodlit courts, was about to begin.

When the plans were approved in 2018, 120 people objected to the tennis courts proposals for the park, off Jessopp Road.

The courts were granted permission and work is due to begin within weeks, but campaigners say there was not proper consultation before the application was lodged.

They want the council to pause the work so consultation can be done.

So, when council contractors appeared on Tuesday (JULY 20) morning, about a dozen campaigners headed to the park.

It turned out to be preparatory work, but 90-year-old Robert Cottrell was among those who went to protest.

He said: "They could leave it as the meadow it's become or put in a children's play area. There's so much more they could do, so long as they maintain the greensward.

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"I am outraged they want to concrete over this area - especially given the flooding we've seen in Germany and Belgium."

Campaigners convinced the contractors to allow them to spend about an hour carrying out a wildlife survey of the area - which has turned into a meadow since the grass courts were shut.

James Packham, of College Road, said: "There were a lot of emotional people here this morning. We are still campaigning for them to pause this."

A Norwich City Council spokesperson said: "This morning, contractors started to erect a fence to secure the site ahead of work starting in the coming weeks.

"The project to install hard courts will increase participation in sport, make the courts more affordable for those using them, and will secure an annual saving to Norwich taxpayers compared to the previous grass courts."

Playing tennis at Heigham Park in the July heatwave. Photo: Bill Smith

Flashback to when the grass courts were in use. - Credit: Bill Smith

The council says there has been consultation and 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.

But campaigners say that was not the same as pre-application consultation with residents.