Tennis Courts Refurbishment

 

Concern has been raised regarding the newly introduced system for booking and charging for use of the borough’s tennis courts. See here for the full report.

However, we had reached a point where the borough needed to make a decision about how to secure the long-term future of park tennis courts and how to encourage more and different people to take exercise through playing tennis.

For over fifteen years, the courts have been allowed to deteriorate. The estimated cost of bringing the 12 most popular courts up to standard is £134,000 with a yearly refurbishment cost of £1,200 per court.  The cost of bringing all the courts up to standard, would be significantly greater and the yearly refurbishment cost would be £34,800.

The borough’s choice was:

  • do nothing and allow the courts to deteriorate even more
  • pay all upgrading costs from council tax and maintain free access to the courts at all times (and take away funds from other much needed projects)
  • raise the level of council tax for all residents
  • charge for use – with concessions for those in receipt of means-tested benefit

The borough charges for all sports: for example, badminton, swimming, football and squash. It would be difficult to single out tennis as the only sport that was free.

Different charging regimes will produce different effects, so the borough has to be clear about what it wants to achieve and charge accordingly.  The choices include:

  • maximize usage from whatever source;
  • steer particular types of user (old or young, frequent or casual);
  • maximize borough revenue; or
  • or any of the above in combination.

Your councillors unanimously, drawing on public health evidence, have chosen a charging and booking package which has worked successfully in other boroughs and which is designed to widen the range of people using the public tennis courts. This includes both annual membership at £36 a year for a family of five for frequent users and a pay as you go system for casual users. We do not yet have differentiation in charge levels to reflect the variability of demand at different times of the day, or the week, or of the year. With the current system it could be possible to have very low charges at off peak times. This would be part of any review undertaken following the experience in use.

Apart from revenue, one of the advantages of the new system is that people may book a court in advance and therefore know they have a court for when they arrive. They will also know, one assumes, that anyone already using the court has overstayed their booking.  The changeover would be rather similar to what occurs currently at the Xcel centre for those playing squash or badminton

If you want to read the report that was drafted by the borough staff for consideration by the cabinet and that was recommended by the cabinet for the approval by the full council – it is here.  If you want to read the full consultation report taking views from 196 respondents to the council’s on-line survey – it is here.

If you want to see the webcast of the short debate around the introduction of tennis court charges it is here – from 48 minutes.  You will see that there were no objections to the proposals.

Previous blog on tennis courts.

Anyone for Tennis?

There are 29 public tennis courts maintained by the borough at twelve sites  These are currently available free of charge.  There was charging until 2001 but the cost of collection began to outweigh the court fees.  Whilst the courts are generally in reasonable condition and used to some extent, the new Liberal Democrat/Residents administration believes that more could be done to ensure people take up the challenge to lead more healthy lives and part of that is to facilitate an increase in tennis participation across Elmbridge.

From May 2017 the borough will introduce an on-line booking system – supported by the borough’s call centre service for those without access to the internet.  The courts will be made secure and the booking system will allow people access once they have paid.

The plan is supported by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) which is providing funding, assisting with the tennis development plan, communications plan and high profile tennis campaign to promote activity at the public courts.

Charging

There will be two simple payment options, both of which will provide good value for money when compared with the cost of other sports activities.

Family membership.  At £36 (up to 5 people living at the same address) and could be transferred from one family member to another and renewed annually.  Once the annual payment had been made, all subsequent court bookings are free of charge.  Members will be able to book up to seven days in advance and play up to two hours every day across all borough venues.

Pay & Play.  For £5 (£2.50 per court per hour for concessions linked to the More card) customers will be able to book a court three days in advance.

There will also be preferred coaching scheme to deliver a high quality, inclusive tennis programme for all ages and abilities across the borough’s courts to encourage greater participation. The successful coaching providers would be appointed through a formal competitive procurement process and would be required to hold and maintain LTA accreditation for the duration of the licence period.