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Tennis court hire concession scheme to be considered

A council planning bring in charges for tennis court hire is also set to consider a concessionary scheme for players on lower incomes.

The tennis courts at Heath Hayes Park. Photo: Google

Cannock Chase Council’s cabinet agreed to move to a chargeable tennis court hiring scheme last year as part of a funding bid for much-needed refurbishment of facilities.

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) is offering the council an opportunity through its ClubSpark scheme to bring the courts up to scratch, by funding “a considerable proportion” of the work needed and appointing specialist approved national contractors on behalf of the authority, clubs and other organisations involved.

Joining up to the scheme would also allow tennis players to check availability at their preferred venues and book court time online before they turn up.

But the move would also require electronic gating to be installed at sites and tennis provision to change from free to chargeable. The self-locking gates would stop free access to the courts, which is hoped would deter antisocial behaviour.

A number of councillors are concerned that introducing booking fees for tennis courts of £7 an hour could make the facilities inaccessible to residents on lower incomes. The cabinet decision was called in for discussion by the Health, Wellbeing and Community Scrutiny Committee.

Councillors who called in the decision supported the prospect of investment in the tennis courts but requested more work be done to enable residents who may not be able to afford the new fees to continue being able to use the courts, such as a discount scheme or free access for leisure centre concession holders. The committee agreed to refer the decision back to cabinet so that a possible concession scheme could be considered.

Council leader Olivia Lyons, speaking at Thursday’s cabinet meeting said: “The committee agreed in principal the need for a charging model for the proposal from the LTA. I think it is important we proceed with that as soon as possible.

“However for the request for looking at some form of concession scheme , which we talked about, we need a lot more information before we take that further. We are planning to refer it back to see whether we can look at a scheme.”

This move was backed by fellow cabinet members. Deputy council leader Bryan Jones said: “I think we need to look at it.”

Tennis courts in Cannock, Hednesford, Heath Hayes and Brereton have been free for more than 15 years, but the scheme has caused some issues for players unable to guarantee a facility at the time they wanted.

Lack of security at the courts has also led to antisocial behaviour, a council report said. And the courts are now in need of “significant refurbishment”, with the Heath Hayes Park facilities deemed to be in a “particularly poor condition” and considered no longer fit for purpose by the LTA.

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