Parents have launched a desperate bid to save their community tennis courts from being bulldozed to make way for social housing.
Council bosses have earmarked the Kirkhill site in Penicuik for redevelopment as social housing – including up to eight homes for disabled war veterans. But members of Penicuik Tennis Club say plans to rip apart the town’s courts will prove a death blow to the thriving 200-member group and discourage children from taking on the sport.
Midlothian Council agreed to lease the town’s two-court tennis facility to the club on a rolling basis in July 2012, shortly after it was founded by parents in the area.
At present, there is only one other active tennis club in Midlothian, about a 15-minute drive away in Dalkeith.
The Penicuik courts are also regularly used by Active Schools, a national initiative between Sportscotland and local authorities that sees school lessons brought out into communities.
But from next summer, organisers have been told they will no longer be allowed to lease the former YMCA site, which is part of Midlothian Council’s local development plan. At least 20 social housing units are being planned for the area where the courts are, and talks are in place with armed forces charity Houses for Heroes to accommodate up to eight injured veterans at the new Kirkhill Road development.
Detailed proposals have yet to be submitted for the site, but officials are hoping to have the homes completed by March 2017.
And whilst tennis campaigners say they have no objections to new social housing in the Midlothian town, they argue that Penicuik’s tennis courts are “invaluable” to the community.
“The tennis club is a real community asset,” said Caroline Wylie, secretary of Penicuik Tennis Club. “It brings people together of different ages and social backgrounds, and provides social cohesion.
“We do not wish to stop the social housing development, just protect this small but much-used facility for the people in Penicuik.”
Mum Amanda Crawshaw added that the council’s decision to shut the courts would discourage area children from keeping fit.
“My son, Campbell, loves the tennis club,” she said. “He was introduced to the sport through Active Schools and I would hope that Midlothian Council would be looking at ways to encourage activity in our children rather than reducing the opportunities available to them. They’ve already taken away the wonderful playing field from Cuiken primary for social housing.”
A spokeswoman for Midlothian Council said plans to redevelop the Kirkhill Road site were still in their embryonic stages, and added that there would be a public consultation on the site’s future before any final decision was made. She said: “Our Local Development Plan is to be launched early next year, and the public will have the chance to comment on the plan.”
At present, there are no plans to build replacement tennis courts in the town.
An action committee to save the tennis grounds and safeguard the future of Penicuik Tennis Club will host a public meeting on January 7 at the town’s Royal Hotel.
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