Council serves up ‘once in a lifetime’ bid to revamp borough tennis courts

Barking and Dagenham Council has launched a “once in a generation” bid to revamp up to 19 of its tennis courts which could see some that have closed for years due to bad flooding reopen again.

The council will need to apply for funding from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), to renovate 19 of its tennis courts located in Parsloes Park, Central Park, Barking Park, Greatfields Park, Old Dagenham Park and St Chads Park.

Residents could see two decommissioned courts in Parsloes Park and another four courts in Central Park that were forced to close due to “inadequate drainage and periodic flooding” reopen once again if the council is successful with its funding bid.

All of the borough’s courts are currently managed and maintained by Public Realm (parks and environment).

Speaking at Barking and Dagenham Council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday evening (March 21), Councillor Saima Ashraf, deputy leader and cabinet member for community leadership and engagement, said the maintenance and repairs needed for the courts have been very difficult due to budget pressures.

Cllr Ashraf said: “We know how important our parks are especially after Covid, our residents really enjoyed the benefits of those parks and since then we’ve been investing heavily as much as we can in all of our parks including the Eastbrookend Country Park.

“I’m really, really proud to say that you will soon see the annual report of all of the parks including the Eastbrookend Country Park and see all of the investment to date in our parks.”

She added: “Unfortunately due to budget and resource pressures, the level of maintenance and operational repairs of these courts are very difficult which we can understand.”

The LTA’s renovation fund includes £21.9million from the department for digital, culture, media and sport and an extra £8.4m from the LTA Tennis Foundation.

The project hopes to eventually refurbish a number of tennis courts, facilities and parks across the UK and will see more than one million new players take up the sport.

Cllr Ashraf said: “This is very good news for us, [our] partnership with the LTA has confirmed [that it will] support a bid of £394,778 to the LTA’s funding panel.

“If the council can confirm a commitment to provide the investment to deliver the facility improvement works at Central park and at Parsloes Park as well, there would be a total requirement [from] the council of £132,900.”

She added: “I’m looking forward to all of this. I think it’s brilliant news, we’re doing so much in our parks so it’s a no-brainer to carry on delivering the best facilities we can for our residents.

“I’m asking my colleagues to support this report and the recommendations in the report.”

The report, which was delivered by Cllr Ashraf, said: “This provides the council with a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to reverse the steady and inevitable decline in the borough’s tennis court provision.”

Cllr Dominic Twomey, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, growth and core services said it was “fantastic” that the LTA was backing the council’s bid.

He said: “Tennis is for everyone. I like playing tennis, watching tennis… wheelchair tennis is fantastic, this is open to everybody, disability or otherwise and I think this is a really good story.

“It is fantastic we can get the LTA in and it’s ambitious with the figures they’re looking at, but you never know as we’ve produced a number of excellent football, rugby and cricket players from this borough and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to potentially in years to come to develop a really famous tennis player so I’m in support of all of this.”

Cabinet members then agreed to the recommendations of the report and a new resident consultation will take place in 2023 to make sure there is a “resident demand” for tennis as a sport in the borough.

Ruby Gregory

Local Democracy Reporter