Tennis court car parking gets planning permission

Grove Park tennis courts.

Grove Park tennis courts. - Credit: Archant

PLANNING permission to turn Grove Park tennis courts into a car park has been granted by a single vote, despite the move being described as ‘absurd’, ‘criminal’ and an ‘absolute disgrace’.

About 20 people campaigned outside Weston Town Hall holding up placards and tennis rackets in protest against North Somerset Council wanting to tarmac over the courts and build an 86-space car park.

Despite the protest, south area committee members voted to go ahead with the conversion.

However, building work cannot start yet, because the Diocese of Bath and Wells retains a covenant over the site.

Reverend Richard Taylor is adamant the covenant, ensuring the area is used for recreation only, will not be removed.

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He said: “The plan makes no sense at all. It would be absurd for North Somerset to remove the one preserving sports facility in the centre of Weston.”

His comments were echoed by Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors.

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Cllr John Crockford-Hawley said: “As someone who is in the town centre most evenings I have yet to see the adjoining car park full on a regular basis.

“I’m certain people would be much better served by keeping it as an area of leisure rather than one for couch potatoes who can’t walk three yards.”

The council received 44 letters of objection from the public, recommendations for refusal from Sport England and Weston Town Council, plus confirmation from the Diocese it has no plans to relinquish its covenant.

Weston College has offered to take on the running of the courts to be used for multi-sports, and Cllr Sonia Russe, the only Conservative member to vote against granting planning permission, said she wanted to hear more from the college about what it could offer.

Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, executive member for transport, agreed more sports facilities are needed in Weston but said the park’s tennis courts were not the answer.

He said a lack of use was the reason why the courts are in a bad condition amid criticism over the lack of work done by the council to improve the courts it owns.

Cllr Ap Rees added: “We need to try to help the businesses - The Playhouse, Blakehay and shopping areas. If we can help them then that has to be good.

“I understand some of the local people don’t want to move forward but the choice is very clear. We stay with the tatty, rundown area with no money to invest or we can use the money we raise to invest in better sports facilities and help local businesses.”

Money raised from parking charges would be used to improve Ashcombe Park’s tennis courts, he confirmed.

Cllr Ap Rees told the committee a car park would help curb antisocial behaviour as increased CCTV coverage and better lighting would be installed.

However, Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s submission towards the application said: “Increasing the number of vehicles in this area will increase the footfall in the area but also increase the opportunity for crime to occur.

“A well-lit public space will encourage night-time use and enhance the feeling of safety.”

Cllr Crockford-Hawley said Cllr Ap Rees’ arguments were ‘specious and arrogant’ and added: “The executive member seems to be in some sort of cloud cuckooland.”

A vote to reject planning permission was tied until chairman Cllr Peter Crew voted in favour of granting planning permission.

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