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Last-ditch effort to stop council’s plans to pave over grass tennis courts

PUBLISHED: 18:24 06 November 2020 | UPDATED: 18:24 06 November 2020

Residents protesting against the Heigham Park tennis court changes. Photo: John Greenaway

Residents protesting against the Heigham Park tennis court changes. Photo: John Greenaway

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Campaigners have made a last-ditch attempt to stop a council’s plans to pave over the city’s remaining grass tennis courts.

Councillor Denise Carlo. Picture: Neil DidsburyCouncillor Denise Carlo. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Norwich’s Heigham Park tennis courts closed in 2017 and now the council is to spend over £400,000 to replace them with floodlit hard courts, as part of expanding the Norwich Parks Tennis service.

But the scheme has met with repeated objections from residents and opposition councillors, as well as a petition calling for funds to be spent on “people in urgent need”.

Council cabinet members are set to award a £401,627.90 tender to Fosse Contracts Ltd to for the work on Wednesday, November 11.

READ MORE: Calls to spend money for new tennis courts on people in ‘urgent need’

Heigham Park. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYHeigham Park. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Green councillor Denise Carlo said: “It is shameful the council intends on rubberstamping three floodlit tarmac courts at Heigham Park using £262,000 from general funds which could be spent in wards with high deprivation.

“Democracy has been kicked out of the window. Officers decided to replace the grass courts at Heigham Park with floodlit tarmac without any prior consultation and refused requests for financial information.

“This is a council which ignores the public and does as it pleases with public money.”

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She also slammed claims of free tennis for low-income families and schools as “misleading”, as these would operate as taster sessions.

While resident John Marais queried plans to floodlight the new courts until 10pm.

READ MORE: Norwich’s final grass tennis courts remain shut amid uncertainty over future

He said: “Floodlighting can cause serious environmental damage to wildlife. Use of cheaper LED lighting has even worse environmental consequences.

Annie Holgate holding a protest against Norwich City Council's revamp of Heigham Park's tennis courts as a misuse of public money which should be spent where it is needed in poorer parts of the city. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAnnie Holgate holding a protest against Norwich City Council's revamp of Heigham Park's tennis courts as a misuse of public money which should be spent where it is needed in poorer parts of the city. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“Heigham Park is a delightful small oasis of natural beauty in the city. I would like to know if the council - which claims to support the protection of the environment - is aware of the potential damage nightly floodlighting could cause.”

But Matthew Packer, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “The council is committed to enabling people to live healthy and fulfilling lives, including leisure opportunities which have significant benefit to wellbeing.”

He said the lighting was “low energy and targeted” while the project involved “significant external funding” and it was “simply not correct to say there has been no consultation - the schemes have been through a rigorous planning process”.

He added: “Our budget is set before all democratically elected councillors and approved by them.

“I am proud this administration continues to support the most vulnerable through critical services such as the council tax reduction scheme and our Pathways partnership.”

READ MORE: Time to scrap Norwich tennis court revamp, say opponents, amid wait for cash


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