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Cromer tennis club member slams 'toffs of north Norfolk' over £3.3m sports hub plans

PUBLISHED: 11:07 03 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:07 03 April 2019

Kelvin van Hasselt and other members of Cromer tennis and squash club who are in a dispute with North Norfolk District Council about plans to create a new sports hub. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Kelvin van Hasselt and other members of Cromer tennis and squash club who are in a dispute with North Norfolk District Council about plans to create a new sports hub. Picture: Neil Didsbury

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A member of a Cromer tennis club slammed “the toffs of north Norfolk” ahead of a meeting to settle the club’s row over plans for a new multimillion pound sports hub.

The courts at Cromer tennis and squash club which are at the centre of the dispute. Picture: Neil DidsburyThe courts at Cromer tennis and squash club which are at the centre of the dispute. Picture: Neil Didsbury

The district council approved proposals for a £3.2m community sports hub at Cromer Academy last year, offering three indoor tennis courts, a gym and dance studio, and granted the scheme more than half a million in extra funding after an investment from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) fell through last month.

The scheme would see two of the tennis club’s four outdoor hard courts come under the new hub, with members sharing access with the high school, and able to use the hub’s indoor courts.

But members expressed outrage at the committee - and accused them of failing to listen to those who are unhappy with the plans.

Kelvin van Hasselt, a member of the Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Association (CLTSA), said: “The problem is that the present committee is out of touch.

Kelvin van Hasselt, the new chairman at Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Association. Picture: Neil DidsburyKelvin van Hasselt, the new chairman at Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Association. Picture: Neil Didsbury

“It has gone into discussions with the council and let them believe the tennis club supported indoor courts at the cost of having to cede half of the hard courts.”

He added: “If you don’t control your own finances, you’ve lost control of your future.”

Mr van Hasselt said members had called an extraordinary general meeting on Wednesday, April 3, at 7pm, where he said a committee election will be held.

The 66-year-old added: “If the LTA turned down being involved, you know something must be wrong. The committee is a small cabal - they tried to rush through ceding the lease.

The courts at Cromer tennis and squash club which are at the centre of the dispute. Picture: Neil DidsburyThe courts at Cromer tennis and squash club which are at the centre of the dispute. Picture: Neil Didsbury

“There’s real poverty in Cromer. “Poor people aren’t going to be able to afford the indoor courts.

“It’s the toffs of north Norfolk who drive over in their BMWs.”

A North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) spokeswoman said: “Our grant application met the LTA’s criteria for grant funding at the time, in late 2017.

“However, in late 2018, the LTA changed its investment strategy to only target areas of the country with the greatest demand, therefore cutting out capital investment in rural facilities.

Kelvin van Hasselt and other members of Cromer tennis and squash club who are in a dispute with North Norfolk District Council about plans to create a new sports hub. Picture: Neil DidsburyKelvin van Hasselt and other members of Cromer tennis and squash club who are in a dispute with North Norfolk District Council about plans to create a new sports hub. Picture: Neil Didsbury

“The LTA went on to note that the project is still highly viable and needed in north Norfolk and will successfully engage with a new audience to develop tennis for existing and future generations.”

Club committee chairman Nick Amis was unavailable in response to multiple requests for comment.

READ MORE: Divisions at Cromer tennis club over council’s plans to use courts for £3.3m sports hub

Tennis in Cromer

The Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Association (CLTSA) was founded in 1979, but the tennis courts in the town were built more than 100 years ago, in 1907.

Plans to form a tennis club were discussed in 1885, and the first annual tournament was held by the then Cromer Tennis Club, in 1908.

In 1923, prime minister Winston Churchill, and his wife Clementine, visited Cromer, and Mrs Churchill played in the mixed doubles.

The grounds were bought by Cromer Urban Council in 1935, and given to the CLTSA by North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) in 2005 on a 31-year lease for £1 annually.

In 2008, the club celebrated 100 years with a ball attended by 320 members and guests.

In 2018, NNDC approved plans for a £3.2m sports hub, incorporating two of the club’s four hard outdoor courts, and gave the scheme a £672,000 cash injection after an investment fell through.

But members who are unwilling to see two of their four outdoor courts ceded to the new hub have raised concerns about the club’s financial future if the proposals go ahead.

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