Decision due on new £3.2m sports hub but fears loom over fate the of town's tennis association
PUBLISHED: 16:24 05 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:29 05 September 2018
The fate of a new sports hub in Cromer are due to be decided amid concerns it could spell the end for the town's well-established tennis association.
A North Norfolk District Council is due to decide if the £3.2m community sports facility which includes three indoor tennis courts at Cromer Academy should go ahead.
But fears have been raised the new centre could spell the end of Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Association (CLTSA).
LTSA member Kevin Wardle said that for the plans to ahead, the club must release two of its four courts, and this land would be transferred to the academy.
He said: “This will then leave the tennis club with only two tennis courts that can be played on all year.”
Mr Wardle said this would leave the club - one of the oldest in the country having been formed in 1885 - with fewer members and income and would “probably have to close”.
He said: “All the members I have spoken to are in favour of the idea of indoor courts. However, does this have to be at the cost of the destruction of a thriving volunteer run club?
“Wider consultation is needed to ensure the best use of rate payers’ money and a win-win situation for everybody:”
But a council spokesman said the hub plans had been through a full consultation process, and was not intended to threaten the viability of the CLTSA.
The spokesman said: “The CLTSA already gains a subsidy from the council averaging more than £25,000 a year largely to manage the grass courts and under these proposals this will not change.
“This subsidy amounted to £415,000 over the last 13 years of the CLTSA’s lease with the council. No other sports club in North Norfolk receives any similar subsidy.”
There would be a separate public entrance for sports hub - via Cabbell Park, off Mill Road.
The facility would also include a gym, which the council said: “would be open to the public in all weathers and all year round.”
The new building would mean the loss of a space currently used for basketball and netball.
The council plans to contribute around £2.4m towards the project, with the remainder expected to be funded by the Lawn Tennis Association.
The council planning meeting takes place today (Thursday, September 6, at its Holt Road, Cromer, office, starting at 9.30am.
NNDC’s response in full:
A council spokesman said: “The Planning Application has been the subject of full public consultation and, as part of that, a well-attended public consultation event was held at the tennis club in April, which was also hosted online.
“This ensured everyone had the chance to fully understand the impacts of the proposal.
“There has also been wide ranging contact between the council and all its partners in the project - the Lawn Tennis Association, Cromer Academy and the Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Association.
“Officers from the council have attended CLTSA committee meetings and the CLTSA annual meeting over the past year and we are pleased to hear that association members are in favour of the idea of indoor courts.
“It’s important to answer directly the claim that the plan could threaten the viability of the CLTSA. This is absolutely not the case.
“Firstly, the proposal is designed to improve the provision and availability of tennis, including all year round indoor tennis, into the future and CLTSA members will have discounted user fees.
Secondly, the CLTSA already gains a subsidy from the council averaging more than £25,000 a year largely to manage the grass courts and under these proposals this will not change. This subsidy amounted to £415,000 over the last 13 years of the CLTSA’s lease with the council. No other sports club in North Norfolk receives any similar subsidy.
“It’s also important to make it clear that there is a feasibility study in the public domain which has been subject to Cabinet, Overview and Scrutiny, and Full Council public meetings, since last autumn, and has been shared with the CLTSA.
“The detailed business case for the new facility is not in the public domain because it relates directly to our new leisure contract, which is still in the procurement process.
“There is a clear benefit from the proposal – a public gym and three new public indoor courts, all of which will be open to the public in all weathers and all year round.
“Part of the proposal sees an arrangement with the Cromer Academy reflecting their agreement to transfer land into the council’s ownership so the new facility can be built and to take into its ownership two existing hard courts. These will be released for public use every evening, at weekends, all school holidays and on two weekday mornings during term time – this was at the request of the association.
“The CLTSA has for many years expressed a clear wish for there to be indoor courts in Cromer, as there have historically been (attached are two images of the indoor facility at Newhaven Court, Cromer, in the 1920s, at the time the only covered tennis courts outside London).
“Indeed, the association unsuccessfully applied for planning permission some years ago to cover some of the existing outdoor courts. The council identified the need for indoor courts when it published its Indoor Sports Facilities Strategy in 2015 and in the same document identified the potential for the courts being the centrepiece for a community sports hub across the Council tennis and academy sports facilities in Cromer.
“The Community Sports Hub, if it gains all the necessary permissions and funding, promises to be an exciting, modern and effective facility which serves the existing CLTSA membership, the public and, crucially, our young people, transforming tennis participation in this part of Norfolk. It will enhance and supplement the fantastic facility that NNDC has supported for so long in Cromer and certainly not supplant it.”