A 50-strong group of Ladywell residents is opposing council plans to charge for upgraded tennis courts on Hilly Fields and has made a last ditch appeal to councillors to consult local people and users before making changes, writes Rick Hebditch.
The tennis courts in Hilly Fields are currently free and open to anyone to turn up and play. The council is about to change this as part of upgrading the courts, with access booked in advance for an annual or per session fee.
The plan will bring the Hilly Fields courts into the same system as those in Ladywell Fields.
Those wishing to use the courts have to register with the LTA website booking system and either pay an annual £35 fee or £5 or £10 for each session.
The council says that this is needed to pay for the upkeep of the courts (council case).
The courts are currently used by a wide range of users – and not just for tennis. Those opposed to the changes are worried that many current users will be put off by the barrier of needing to register and then also pay a fee.
“The courts are a local community asset”, says Molly Toomey, who helped organise the letter to councillors.
“At the moment they’re accessible to everyone, including those who aren’t going to want or be able to pay fees and register. This will fundamentally change the nature of what the courts are and who they’re for.”
The council says that they cannot afford to keep up the courts. They applied for a grant to the LTA to upgrade the courts and switch to the new booking arrangements in 2021.
The council have not yet provided information on how the new arrangements will come into effect and when the courts would close for works to take place.
The Friends of Hilly Fields have expressed concern that Glendale, who manage Lewisham’s parks and open spaces, are not fulfilling their contract to maintain the courts to the required standard, and that a range of funding options should be looked at.
The Friends ran their own consultation on the plans last year in the absence of a council consultation about their future.
Those concerned about the plans are asking Lewisham council to consult residents and users before
any changes to how the courts are used.