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Campaigners fail to stop loss of Norwich’s last publicly owned grass tennis courts

Protests outside City Hall in Norwich over Heigham Park tennis courts. Photo: Neil Perry

Protests outside City Hall in Norwich over Heigham Park tennis courts. Photo: Neil Perry

Archant

Norwich’s last publicly owned grass tennis courts are to disappear, after attempts to persuade councillors to keep them failed.

A former GP was among the objectors who tried to convince members of Norwich City Council’s planning committee to reject plans to replace the 10 grass courts at Heigham Park with three all weather ones.

Almost 120 people had objected to the city council’s own bid to replace them.

Protests outside City Hall in Norwich over Heigham Park tennis courts. Photo: Neil PerryProtests outside City Hall in Norwich over Heigham Park tennis courts. Photo: Neil Perry

City Hall had said it could no longer “heavily subsidise” maintenance of grass courts and a tie-up with the Lawn Tennis Association would bring funding for new courts.

But there was fierce opposition, including from the Gardens Trust, which said it did not respect the Grade II-listed park’s historic status.

Protests outside City Hall in Norwich over Heigham Park tennis courts. Photo: Neil PerryProtests outside City Hall in Norwich over Heigham Park tennis courts. Photo: Neil Perry

And former Norwich GP David Goldser spoke at the meeting to urge councillors to reject the plan.

He said: “Published research for tennis shows that grass courts result in lower injury rates than hard courts and they are more body friendly to play on.”

The Heigham Park Grass Courts Group, a group of people living nearby had put together a business plan to try to convince the council to allow them to take on the running and maintenance of at least some of the grass courts.

Peter Cutting, from the group, said: “I feel the application is unjustified, unnecessary and deeply unpopular.”

He said their case would see them take on the maintenance and running if the courts.

But officers said that business case was not a matter for the planning committee to consider.

Planning officer Mark Brown said a delay could also affect the level of funding from the Lawn Tennis Association.

However, Labour’s Mike Sands proposed that the application be deferred, so the business case could be considered.

But that proposal was lost, by six votes to four.

Councillors then voted by six votes to four to approve the application.

The Friends of Heigham Park had asked its 34 members if they were for, against or neutral. Fourteen said they were against and three for.

Before the meeting, objectors rallied outside City Hall.

They were joined by former Norwich North MP Ian Gibson, who had signed racquets by Fred Perry and Andy Murray, British players who both triumphed on the grass courts at Wimbledon.

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