Hitchin tennis club launches petition amid fears that its facility could be knocked down

Members of Hitchin Lawn Tennis club launch petition amid fears their facility could be knocked down

Members of Hitchin Lawn Tennis club launch petition amid fears their facility could be knocked down - Credit: Archant

A tennis club has launched a petition in fear that the facility could be knocked down.

Last week the Comet reported that Elias Xenophontos, chairman of Hitchin Lawn Tennis Club, said he was “disgusted” with the way North Herts District Council (NHDC) has handled the consultation and plans surrounding the refurbishment of Bancroft Gardens in Hitchin, where the club is based.

Now a petition has been launched to get councillors and representatives from BDP– NHDC’s appointed architects – to take notice of users’ concerns and stop the proposals from going ahead in its current form, gaining around 250 signatures so far.

Signing the petition, Codicote Tennis Club chairman Matt Wallis, said: “We have enjoyed a long and friendly rivalry with the members at Hitchin Tennis Club. This proposal will rip the heart out of a club that has battled back from a shocking couple of years with off court issues that have been no fault of their own. Please don’t destroy a wonderful community club. Participation in sport is key and this proposal reduces participation massive.”

The recreation ground has four tennis courts available free of charge, but NHDC wants to remove these and grass over the area.

Plans have also emerged to restore the River Hiz and to open up the play area in the gardens. But the consequence of that could be moving the tennis club’s three courts towards the upper bowls green and demolishing the current site.

The plan has space for only three courts in total – a reduction from the seven currently available – with no clear plan for how any public access to courts could be arranged.

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Alan Cook, treasurer of Hitchin Town Bowls Club, which has also been effected by the proposals, said: “We have been involved in the discussions held with all parties involved with the proposed regeneration of the Bancroft Recreation ground over several years.

“We are saddened at the way Hitchin Lawn Tennis Club has been treated in the past and at present.

“Over several years facilities in the recreation ground have been allowed to deteriorate ahead of the implementation of the so called regeneration.

Our club has stated from day one of the consultation regarding regeneration that it is imperative for the survival of our bowls club that provision of parking for visiting teams and members is incorporated in plans. At the meeting on January 16 our representatives were informed that there would not be any provision of parking due to Lottery Funding stipulations thus possibly jeopardising the future of our club. Although there is public car parking provision nearby this is not always available to our members and visitors as the car parks are usually full.”

A masterplan for Bancroft Gardens was approved by the council a year ago, which includes altering pedestrian access, new seating, electricity supply in the bandstand, a play area for older children and a cafe.

Members of NHDC’s cabinet will consider the proposals for the refurbishment on Tuesday.

If given the go-ahead, BDP will submit a bid on behalf of NHDC for funding through the Lottery Fund’s Parks for People programme.

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