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Cutting tennis courts and adding different activities will boost sports centre’s visitors by five times, claim operators

MORE details have emerged of controversial plans to convert part of a tennis centre in a bid to boost visitor numbers.

Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) is seeking the Council’s approval for its updated plans for the future of Batley Sports and Tennis Centre.

Its final proposals would cost £1.6 million and aim to increase visitors by five times and combat a continuing drop in Kirklees Council funding to KAL – which this year is £750,000.

The proposals involve cutting the number of indoor courts at the centre in half, leaving just two, as well as resurfacing the four outdoor tennis courts.

The remaining indoor space will be turned into soft play and a TAG Active interactive obstacle course. A separate entrance will also be created as well as a cafe and party rooms.

The move has angered campaigners who have been fighting to save the tennis provision at the centre.

A report to the Council’s cabinet committee, seeking approval for the changes, states that the Council and KAL have been working together to identify opportunities to generate more income to mitigate the impact of the reduced Council funding.

This will have reduced from £2.5m in 2014/15 to £934,000 in 2019/20.

It also details how the income from the tennis facility last year was £76,800, but guidance from the Lawn Tennis Association says income from a facility of this size should be around £180,000 a year.

The report also goes on to say: “The LTA and Tennis Foundation have also developed a proposal based upon evidence of other facilities achieving similar improvements to those projected.

“This proposal includes a number of community roadshows and the employment of a tennis manager to develop the programme at Batley Tennis Centre.

“The LTA and TF have stated that they are prepared to fully fund the proposed interventions (£75k to kick start projected growth) for two years.”

But the responsibility for funding the remaining years in the ten-year plan would fall to KAL In addition if the business plan did not reach its targets for the first two years, the LTA and Tennis Foundation would concede the centre was no longer viable and would withdraw from the centre.

The report adds: “Officers are concerned that the business plan carries a high level of risk as it is predicated on achieving above a 90 per cent occupancy rate at peak times.”

Officers are recommending that KAL’s proposals be approved, along with the 20-year loan required to fund the project.

Lisa Hunter, 50, of Cleckheaton, who is a member of the Batley ITI Tennis Club and uses the centre regularly, said she believed the proposals were flawed.

“All it would need is a few hundred thousand spending on improving the tennis centre and paying for a development officer to bring it back up to previous levels,” she said.

“But they are prepared to spend £1.6m in order to increase footfall for the space.

“The problem that we have is that it can’t claim to be a tennis centre with only two indoor courts.

“And as a club we will have to look for a new base for training and matches as the work on the TAG Active part and on resurfacing the outdoor courts takes place.

“We can’t see how this new fad – TAG Active –will encourage people to come back again and again. It’s expensive and doesn’t seem like a repeat activity.”

The meeting takes place on Tuesday, October 17, from 4pm.

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