Four free-to-access tennis courts in Lewisham are set to be renovated by Lewisham Council and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), but when the renovation is completed, residents will have to pay to access the facilities.
The tennis courts to be renovated are located at Hilly Fields, Catford Bridge, Telegraph Hill and Chinbrook Meadows and are currently free to access by locals. After the renovation users will have to pay up to £5 per hour to use the facilities.
Local resident, Andy Steep, told East London Lines: “The courts in Lewisham need renovation, but at the moment they are free to use, and I think that it’s really important that they stay that way. Especially during a cost-of-living crisis, I think charging people will make the sport less accessible to people on lower incomes.”
This project is part of a nationwide incitive to restore courts that are in poor or unplayable condition and will see thousands of existing tennis courts brought back to life.
Councillor Andre Bourne, Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure at Lewisham Council said: “These four courts are in urgent need of refurbishment and we have received a number of complaints from residents over slippery conditions, crumbling surfaces and rubbish.”
The renovation work will result in gate-access technology and chargeable online booking systems, in contrast to the current model where anyone can just turn up and play.
Petitions have been circulating since the very early stages of planning but have had very little impact on the outcome. In a recent meeting, Lewisham Council confirmed that the plan for the delivery for this project is in the final stages of development.
One person who signed a petition, Luna Rossi said: “This move is extremely unwelcome in the community and completely discriminatory towards that part of the population who doesn’t have access to a digital platform or/and is going through hardship.
Considering the rise in living costs in general and energy bills in particular, surely you will agree that the council should do anything it can to give the opportunity to everyone to contribute to their health and fitness regime, not just those who have enough money and are tech savvy.”
Despite push back from some residents, Lewisham Council insists that the decisions being made are based on what they have learned from consulting with local people.
Works on the site will start March 2023 and be completed by June 2023.