Go-ahead from council for Batchwood tennis centre

A NEW regional tennis centre has been given the green light to replace the one burned down at Batchwood in St Albans but building cannot begin until final approval is given by the Secretary of State.

St Albans district councillors gave unanimous support for the new Batchwood scheme at last Thursday’s planning referrals committee meeting.

But as it is to be built in the Green Belt, it must have the nod from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles.

Planning permission is required to rebuild facilities destroyed by the devastating fire at Batchwood Golf and Tennis Centre in St Albans in August 2011.

The site will also be the location of new golf and bowls pavilions to replace those lost in the fire. Planning permission for those was granted in October.

The new Batchwood includes a tennis and judo centre, which will be an East of England regional centre of excellence expected to attract top athletes. There will be six indoor tennis courts - up from four in the original building.

St Albans judo club is to have a special dojo facility and a wide range of other sports will also be catered for.

Most Read

The centre will feature a new gym and condition room for tennis and judo athletes plus a coach education room.

A caf�, sports massage area and sports injury clinic are included and as part of the development, the squash courts will be refurbished.

Portfolio holder for sports and leisure Cllr Mike Wakely said: “Local people will have access to the type of facilities that top athletes use as they train for a place in Olympic squads.

“Top governing sports bodies have come together to contribute funding for the centre.”

The council suffered a blow in April after their insurers had indicated that they would only fund a ‘like-for-like replacement of the buildings destroyed in the fire when the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) said it was not prepared to fund the expansion of facilities at the centre.

But the council is now looking at a number of potential funding sources and has passed the first stage in applying through the LTA’s normal funding process to help provide the enhanced facilities.

In addition it has applied to Sports England’s Iconic Facilities Fund to develop a judo facility and provide additional funding for the tennis facilities.

The council should know by March if the applications have been successful but in the meantime they are looking at other funding sources.

Construction is expected to begin next April and if all goes to plan, Batchwood is scheduled to open within the year.