Bishop's Stortford Lawn Tennis Club to introduce sport of padel to town
Bishop's Stortford Lawn Tennis Club is courting the approval of planners as it prepares to serve up an ambitious expansion project.
The Cricketfield Lane club, founded in 1910 by the Gilbey family, wants to introduce padel to the town.
Founded on the beaches of Acapulco in Mexico by businessman Enrique Corcuera, the racquet sport is popular on the Continent.
It is typically played in doubles on an enclosed court roughly 25% smaller than a standard one. Scoring is the same as normal tennis.
The club, which has a membership of 630, wants to build two canopied padel courts with floodlights on what is currently wasteland.
In a statement supporting the project, it told planning authority East Herts Council: "In 2019 the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) integrated padel as an affiliated sport.
"For those not aware of padel, it is a very popular sport on the Continent played on an enclosed court with hard bats and balls similar to tennis balls. The sport is rapidly growing in popularity in the UK although there is a chronic shortage of courts.
"This planning application seeks to make Bishop's Stortford one of the few towns in the country to actively promote the sport."
Facilities currently comprise five floodlit all-weather tennis courts, three floodlit hard tennis courts – which benefit from a protective bubble through the winter months – six unlit grass tennis courts (open during summer only) and two floodlit mini-tennis hard courts.
The club has also asked the council for permission to remove the latter and replace with two full-size courts to try to meet demand. Last year, the area for players aged four to eight was used just 6% of the time; those who still need a smaller area will be able to use the new padel courts.
The club said: "Our proposal to add two new tennis courts with an artificial clay surface will mean we offer all possible playing surfaces, suited to both young and old players, and padel, which is a sport the majority of people in Bishop's Stortford won't have considered due to the travel time to a court to play."
Membership has increased by 206 since October 2018 and pay-and-play sessions are available.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the club was giving lessons to pupils at Northgate Primary School across the road, teaching talented girls at Herts and Essex High School and getting ready to offer coaching to people with disabilities.
The club added: "Two new primary schools and a new secondary school are included in the adjacent Bishop's Stortford North development, and our facility would be ideally located for their usage, further adding to our schools and community programme.
"We want to make tennis accessible to all and open up our junior and adult coaching programmes to as many people as possible, but with eight courts that is not possible at present.
"We have around 350 juniors and adults attending coaching, but have waiting lists for many of our junior coaching groups and don't have the court space to offer more sessions."
The town council has raised no objection to either application.