Controversial plans to close part of Kirklees’ only public indoor tennis courts to create a children’s play area have been approved by senior councillors.
Council cabinet members this week approved the plan for Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) to convert part of Batley Sports and Tennis Centre to provide a soft play centre and “clip and climb” climbing wall.
An officers’ report to the cabinet argued that the tennis centre was underused and providing alternative leisure facilities would get more people active, generate more income and create employment opportunities.
Recommending approval, the report said: “The reason for these recommendations is to enable KAL to increase its surpluses as a way to offset the reductions in council funding over the next three years and to attract more children, young people and adults to be physically active which is a proven way to reduce long term, dependency on health and social care services.”
Cabinet agreed to back an option to convert two tennis courts to soft play, retain and improve two other indoor tennis courts and upgrade the surface and fencing of the centre’s four outdoor courts – as well as develop an entrance, eating area and party rooms and provide extra parking and improved disabled access.
Along with the £1.6m scheme for the tennis centre, cabinet members also approved spending £1.5m to convert part of the sports hall at Dewsbury Sports Centre to provide similar children’s facilities.
The work at Batley will take place in 2017-18 with the work at Dewsbury taking place the following year.
The proposals met with a volley of criticism from tennis players, who claimed that an offer from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to continue funding the site if it is left alone had been snubbed.
The officers’ report said the LTA and Tennis Foundation (TF) had proposed a 10-year business plan to boost use of the tennis centre. The plans would have seen the LTA and TF provide £75,000 to kick-start the 10-year plan with funding transferring to KAL thereafter.
But the report said: “Officers are concerned that the LTA/TF business plan carries a high level of risk as it is predicated on achieving above a 90% occupancy rate at peak times.
“In 2016, the LTA/TF were given 12 months to work with KAL to try to increase tennis usage...and the LTA were unable to appoint a suitable development officer and so targets have not been met. Officers therefore do not have confidence that the LTA/TF business plan will achieve the targets included within it.”