As Wimbledon fever hits the Bay, council killjoys have decided to slap a £7.20 an hour charge on using the town’s tennis courts. Adult players will have to fork out the sum to hire the Memorial Park facilities as the authority looks to net cash for their maintenance.
Meanwhile, aspiring Andy Murrays under the age of 16 will have to pay £3 to use the courts for an hour. The council says it has charged players to use courts in Whitstable for several years, and decided to impose the fees in the Bay as part of its “user pays” policy. The charges are expected to he introduced in the next few weeks. Council spokesman Rob Davies said:
“We’re currently sorting out the process for how people will go about booking the courts. It will be operated by Serco. We have had charges in place at two courts in Whitstable for several years, and we are bringing Herne Bay’s courts in line with that.”
Players will have to book courts in advance by telephone or online. After paying, they will receive a code which must be entered into an electronic system at the courts to gain access. The prospect of bringing in charges was discussed at a meeting of the Herne Bay area member panel last month. The plans were put forward by Hampton councillor Peter Lee, who said padlocks should be placed on the courts and players asked to buy a key to access them. He said:
“At the moment the courts are free of charge, and because they are open all the time, all sorts of things could happen in there that we would rather not happen. But I feel that if we are to spend substantial amounts of money then perhaps we should have some means of having keys and charging for them to go in. The money spent to improve them means we should be look to recoup it in some way.”
The idea won support from councillors Peter Vickery-Jones and Andrew Cook, but Reculver member Jennie Edwards raised fears it would put youngsters off sport. The rates are expected to be lower out of season, which is from October to May. The money raised will pay for maintenance including weeding, marking out lines and resurfacing every three years.
Herne Bay Gazette, June 26th 2014