Private ­Warriston tennis plan angers residents

Warriston private playing fields behind Warriston Crescent, Edinburgh.''Park viewed from Water of Leith path looking towards Eildon Street''Image by: Malcolm McCurrach'Mon, 7, April, 2014
Warriston private playing fields behind Warriston Crescent, Edinburgh.''Park viewed from Water of Leith path looking towards Eildon Street''Image by: Malcolm McCurrach'Mon, 7, April, 2014
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CONTROVERSIAL plans for privately-run tennis courts in a council-owned park have been put on hold after objections from nearby residents.

Sportscotland awarded the Warriston Community Tennis Club a £30,000 grant for the project from a Commonwealth Games legacy fund and the council is set to lease the club a portion of land at the ­Warriston playing fields.

But neighbours claim the proposed courts are too close to their houses and question why public money is going to a private organisation which will require people to pay membership fees to use the courts.

Officials recommended refusal of the planning application for the scheme because the courts – one full-sized and one mini-court – were too close to trees. But councillors decided instead to have a site visit to see the situation for themselves and discuss the plans further.

Sue Sellar, a trustee of the Warriston Park amenity trust, welcomed the chance for a rethink of the proposals.

She said when the idea was first floated in 2007 the plan was to revamp existing derelict courts at the playing fields, which most people would have supported. But the proposal now was for new courts just 25 yards from some of the houses in ­Warriston Crescent.

She voiced concerns about the club and its ­membership plans, saying: “They have effectively been getting money from Sportscotland, a public body, to ­privatise public land.

“What I hope can happen is the idea can be progressed on a different basis.

“There are other models. It doesn’t have to be private – it could be pay as you play or community managed by people in the streets round about.”

Jeremy Norfolk, one of the club’s committee members, said they were very pleased the application was being ­continued.

He said there was little scope for changing the layout of the courts. “We’ve positioned the courts as far away from the houses as the site we have been offered by the council will ­permit.”

And he said there was only a “remote” possibility of building the new courts on the site of the old courts.

“The difficulty is the old tennis courts have been put back to turf and are therefore part of the overall playing fields which means there is more flexibility for laying out football pitches, the main use for the fields.”

He defended the grant secured by the club from Sportscotland. “I imagine most of the legacy funding goes to ­private institutions. We are proposing a club which is open to all without restriction and we are committed to keeping the membership subscription as low as possible.” He said the proposal was for family membership, expected to be the main way people subscribed to the club, to cost £75 a year – “a fraction of the cost of any other private club”.

Mr Norfolk said unless some other public body was going to pay for maintenance of the ground he did not see any alternative. But he said he hoped a compromise could be reached, “This project has been under way for at least six years. It would be sad if it did not happen.”