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Tennis club's second bid to bring padel courts to Bishop's Stortford after East Herts Council faults its first attempt

Bishop’s Stortford Lawn Tennis Club is vying for game, set and match as it seeks to bring the sport of padel to the town.

Currently, East Herts Council has the advantage after the club's initial application for planning permission to build courts at its Cricketfield Lane home was called out on Green Belt grounds.

Padel is played in doubles on courts that are 25% smaller than standard tennis ones. The sport was founded in 1969 in the Mexican beach resort of Acapulco and is popular on mainland Europe.

As part of its efforts to bring the sport to Stortford, despite the weather, the club proposed courts with a canopy to be built on scrubland – but it has removed the protection from the elements from its second application. It will submit the revised plans to EHC while also appealing to the Planning Inspectorate against the council's original refusal.

Despite no objections from the town council, East Herts blocked the club’s first attempt, saying: “The proposed development would constitute inappropriate development within the Green Belt as it would not preserve its openness. Other considerations would not clearly outweigh the harm by reason of inappropriateness and loss of openness.”

However, club manager Natalie Dwyer hopes a revised scheme or the appeal will be a winner.

BSLTC manager Natalie Dwyer by the scrubland where the proposed padel courts would go. Pic: Vikki Lince. (45203981)
BSLTC manager Natalie Dwyer by the scrubland where the proposed padel courts would go. Pic: Vikki Lince. (45203981)

She said: “The area within our club where we're proposing to add padel courts is scrubland, and with thousands of new homes being built [nearby] on Green Belt land, it's bizarre that this has been cited as the main reason for refusal. We have plenty more open space around the club and feel that this area is the least harmful to the 'openness of the Green Belt'.”

She cited the Bishop's Stortford Neighbourhood Plan, which seeks to encourage “appropriate use of Green Belt for sensitively designed outdoor sport, leisure and community facilities”.

“In a town that's growing at an alarming pace, where will these new homeowners play sport?" said Natalie. "What facilities are being prepared to offer the thousands of newcomers and their families?”

She said the padel plans had support from tennis and squash club members, who currently have to travel for up to an hour to alternative facilities.

“We'll be resubmitting our application, albeit without the canopy which provides shelter from the rain, and also appealing the decision to reject our application.

"We're looking for support from local councillors who will support our application and ensure it is brought to committee to discuss fully, and are looking into how we gain support from the townspeople of Bishop's Stortford to aid our appeal.”

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