Town council backs Bishop's Stortford Lawn Tennis Club's padel plans
The town council has urged East Herts planners to avoid a double fault and approve plans for padel courts in Bishop's Stortford.
Natalie Dwyer, from Bishop's Stortford Lawn Tennis Club, addressed the town council's planning and development committee after the district council called "out!" on the club's initial proposals for the new facility in Cricketfield Lane on Green Belt grounds.
The club, founded by the Gilbey family in 1910, has resubmitted its application with amendments to remove a proposed canopy and add six parking spaces. Its original application is also the subject of an appeal.
Natalie said the aim was to "get ahead of the game" and be the first venue in Hertfordshire to offer padel on a pay-per-play basis so it can be enjoyed by club non-members too.
Padel is a relatively new sport that is played with the same scoring system as tennis. It comes under the Lawn Tennis Association's remit, although racquets and balls are different and the court is smaller and enclosed by a mixture of Perspex and mesh screens.
The four-player game was founded on the beaches of Acapulco in Mexico by businessman Enrique Corcuera and is very popular on the European mainland.
BSLTC's plan to use waste ground for two courts would make Bishop's Stortford one of the few towns in the country actively promoting the sport.
The club, with 630 members, already has five floodlit all-weather tennis courts, three floodlit hard courts, protected by a "bubble" in winter, and six unlit grass courts open in summer months only. Planning permission has been granted to replace two floodlit hard mini courts with full-size versions.
Natalie said the club was ready to invest £250,000 in improving sporting facilities for the town.
At the town council's planning and development committee, Conservative Cllr Shane Manning said: "When this [proposal] came before us last time I said this was a fantastic initiative and I see no reason why the district council rejected it. I see no reason why we should not wholeheartedly support this.
Lib Dem Cllr Bob Taylor seconded Cllr Manning's proposal to make no objection and added: "We generally felt it was a good initiative and quite why the planning department has taken this action it has, I do not know."
His colleague, Cllr Richard Townsend, said the district council's grounds for refusal made no sense as the area was already designated for sport. "I'm strongly in favour of this," he said.
EHC will rule on the amended application while the club's original proposal will be considered at appeal by an independent Government inspector.