Community tennis session fees increase at Batchwood in St Albans spark criticism

Batchwood Sports Centre in St Albans

Batchwood Sports Centre in St Albans - Credit: Archant

Tennis players have criticised “large increases” in fees at Batchwood, resulting in visitors paying up to £3.70 more to play socially.

Judy Murray has visited Batchwood several times since it was re-opened

Judy Murray has visited Batchwood several times since it was re-opened - Credit: Archant

But 1Life, the firm managing the state-of-the-art sports centre in Batchwood Drive, has defended the price rise as the community tennis programme has been running at a loss.

Tina Shaw, of Little Acre in St Albans, told the Herts Advertiser she was concerned about the tennis centre’s changed fees.

1Life had initially proposed larger increases, telling tennis players it hoped to charge £6.25 for 50+ tennis – up from £4.80.

Participants in tennis sessions for Batchwood’s more senior players take part in a mixture of singles and doubles, with a Lawn Tennis Association coach on hand to provide tips and advice.

However, after consultation, 1Life had a change of heart and decided to charge those aged over 50 slightly less, dropping the price for tennis sessions to £4.55.

When it comes to adult social tennis, though, visitors who were previously paying £8.80 will now have to stump up £12.50.

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Tina said: “This is a staggering increase, for which no explanation has been offered.

“The government rightly wishes to encourage us to be more active, not least to reduce the NHS budget. This is not the best way to achieve that.”

The Herts Advertiser received complaints from other residents, one of whom said that “regular attendees are up in arms”.

A spokeswoman for 1Life said that after a review of Batchwood’s community indoor tennis programme, “it was discovered that it had been running at a loss since the centre re-opened in 2014.”

Thus the decision was made “to increase the prices to better reflect the cost of running the sessions, rather than cancelling popular sessions.

“Management have been open about price increases, handing out leaflets to all members, putting up notices in reception and meeting with some of the groups to answer any questions.”

However after consultation the proposed fee rises were altered again, to “make them better reflect the wishes of the members, such as removing a hot drink from the price of the over 50s sessions, to bring the cost down further.”

The largest increase affects the group coached lessons, up from £8.60 to £10 for two hours, and from £8.80 to £12.50 for three hours.

Fee rises range from an extra 15p - for cardio tennis - with the majority of sessions costing £1.40/£1.70 more.

A spokesman for St Albans district council, which owns the centre, said the fee increases were “not a council decision” as the centre was run by 1Life on the authority’s behalf.