FEAR has been raised that a ‘pay to play’ system on Royal Borough Park tennis courts could ‘alienate’ the most vulnerable residents.
The council should introduce fees for people to access the tennis courts at Kidwells, Desborough and Oaken Grove parks to help with maintenance costs.
About 3,200 residents use the three courts for free, but the council needs money to maintain and improve the facilities. One way is to introduce a ‘pay to play’ system where residents pay a fee to unlock doors to play tennis.
Councilors attending the Maidenhead Town Virtual Forum have learned that the Royal Borough has secured almost £94,000 from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), which governs the sport, to maintain the three courts.
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Although the funds are secure, it is still subject to a final agreement with the LTA.
Speaking at the meeting on Monday July 11, Cllr Gurch Singh (Lib Dem: St Mary’s) said the charge ‘didn’t suit him’ as it could ‘alienate’ people who want to play tennis but don’t don’t have the means to do so. due to the cost of living crisis.
He said, “They [vulnerable residents] can afford to gamble, but they can’t afford to pay. Why do we put these coded locks on the gates? Because I fear that we end up excluding certain residents.
Cllr Ross McWilliams (Con: Cox Green), Senior Member for Sport and Recreation, said it was ‘disappointing’ Cllr Singh focused on the negative but said it was a plan to improve the park’s tennis courts and raise funds to reopen the Kidwells Park Cafe.
Andrew Durrant, executive director of place services at the council, added that it also creates a “flexible offer” to other groups, such as women and girls or people with disabilities, who can book a place and play tennis .
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He said: “Like everything, there needs to be a level of investment, whether from the participants, groups or clubs using the facilities, to enable them to be sustained over time.
“If we allowed all of our facilities to be completely free to use, we would have an absolute hole to fill every time they fell into disrepair.”
Cllr Singh interrupted, saying he had to leave, and his question went unanswered. The chair of the meeting, Cllr David Coppinger (Con: Bray) asked the clerk to remove Cllr Singh from the meeting.
Meanwhile, Independent Cllrs Geoff Hill and Helen Taylor (Oldfield) have suggested the board should consider different pricing arrangements for those who wish to play but cannot afford to pay so no one is left out.