Petition launched over tennis court concerns in Leamington park
Tennis players in Leamington have launched a petition for the public courts on which they play to be resurfaced.
Last week, members of Victoria Park Tennis Club (VP Tennis) raised concerns that Warwick District Council will not be resurfacing the courts until after the Commonwealth Games bowls events have taken place in the park in Summer 2022.
They have now launched a petition which has already been signed by hundreds of people and has a target of 500.
A statement for the petition says: "Please support our campaign to protect Victoria Park Tennis Club from a damaging agreement between Warwick District Council (WDC) and the Commonwealth Games (CWG) that will limit the local community’s access to safe tennis courts from 2020 and will cause a highly valued local coaching business to cease trading.
"Victoria Park Tennis Club, located in the centre of Leamington, promotes low cost, open access tennis for the local community and provides high quality coaching to both club members and the general public.
"Courts are available on a pay-and-play basis all year round and also on a free-to-play basis at regular times across the week ensuring there are no financial barriers for anyone that wishes to play.
"These facilities are a wonderful resource for all with players relying on them for both their mental and physical wellbeing.
"However, they are now under threat due to a lack of proper maintenance that has led to a deterioration of the court surfaces and has made some areas unsafe for use.
"One court has already been decommissioned and a safety notice has now been installed by WDC at the entrance to all courts.
"Discussions regarding resurfacing have been on-going with WDC for a number of years during which time assurances have been offered but limited action has been taken.
"The court surfaces are now 16 years old, double their recommended life span, and work should have been undertaken many years ago based on the level of social tennis and coaching that the courts are expected to support.
"The agreement by WDC to allow CWG to use the courts as a media facility for coverage of the bowls competition will completely destroy the structure of the courts due to the heavy weight of equipment to be installed.
"Unfortunately WDC doesn’t deem it appropriate to resurface the courts before the event, despite their poor condition.
"They have offered to perform a gentle clean of the surfaces in the short-term to try to prolong their condition, however the club has been assured that the current level of deterioration is so significant that this will not provide any real benefit and full resurfacing is the only viable option.
"There is an additional agreement between WDC and CWG that the courts should be returned to their previous condition after completion of the event.
"Resurfacing plans would still be subject to budget approval by the council though so there is no guarantee of the work going ahead and this will not prevent loss of the vital local facility in the short-term.
"Unfortunately, if resurfacing work is not undertaken with some urgency the number of courts available to the community will continue to fall, coaching sessions provided by the club will cease from as early as October 2020 and a successful local independent business will be forced to close.
"In order to protect the future of the Victoria Park Tennis Club for the local community please support our petition to obtain the following commitments from Warwickshire District Council in partnership with the Commonwealth Games.
"Commitment to maintain the courts to a safe standard in the lead up to commencement of the Commonwealth Games by following advice of experts to resurface the courts as a matter of urgency and commitment to resurface the courts immediately after completion of the Commonwealth Games."
Warwick District Council has provided a lengthy response to the concerns.
Cllr Moira Ann Grainger, portfolio holder for culture, said: "Firstly and most importantly, the council is not ignoring the concerns that have been raised by VP Tennis who operate the courts under licence to the council.
"Over recent months there have been many meetings between officers, VP Tennis and in some cases Councillors.
"VP Tennis are a member of the Commonwealth Games Stakeholder Group set up by the Council to ensure clear communication between those who may be effected by the games in 2022.
"The council, concerned by reports from VP tennis in early 2019 that the courts were slippery, commissioned an independent test by the company who carry out this work for the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).
"The report stated that the courts were fine in the dry and marginal in wet conditions, leading the Council to undertake some additional works to improve the conditions in the wet.
"The same test was done in December 2019, following the very wet autumn and winter, and out of 21 separate slip tests conducted, only three areas fell below the recommended adhesion levels when wet.
"The council took the decision to take one court out of use as a precaution and also provided notices around the court notifying customers to take sensible precautions during wet weather.
"The council have a regular maintenance regime on the courts and secured budgets to allow this to continue for the foreseeable future.
"The council has committed the courts to be used during the period of the Commonwealth Games during summer 2022, which will mean that they are out of use in the lead up to and during the ten days of competition.
"Had the Commonwealth Games not been impacting on the courts, there were plans to resurface the courts in the near future, but this has been delayed until after the games, as the use during the games is highly likely to damage the playing surface.
"Dialogue has been held with VP Tennis about these plans and they are aware of the council’s plans for the courts.
"We have also been speaking to VP Tennis about finding alternative courts while the Victoria Park courts are out of action.
"The dialogue continues with VP Tennis, and with the LTA who are in support of the Council’s approach to the ongoing plans for these courts.
"We fully recognise the value that these courts play in allowing open access to local people to play tennis and will continue to invest in these courts as we have done in the past."