Tennis back at St Albans’ Batchwood Centre

Four men arrested on suspicion of arson in St Albans have been released without charge

TENNIS has returned to Batchwood for the first time since a fire razed the popular sports base two months ago.

While the district council continues to push forward with plans to rebuild the centre, a special dome, dubbed the bubble, was placed over outside courts at Batchwood Golf and Tennis Centre this week, allowing players to resume training at the site.

St Albans district council’s portfolio holder for sports, Cllr Mike Wakely, said it had been nerve-wracking installing the bubble over three outside courts because of gusty conditions.

Golfers will be relieved to hear that temporary toilets and changing facilities have finally been placed at Batchwood too, following complaints that the council had taken too long organising alternative services.

Last week council representatives and the chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), Roger Draper, discussed the future of Batchwood.

They agreed to rebuild the centre with state-of-the-art facilities, superior to its predecessor which was destroyed in a suspected arson attack on August 10, around the time of the London riots.

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The LTA is the national governing body for British tennis. It prioritises investments that support year-round tennis and extended playing hours with about 80 per cent of the LTA’s capital investment in places to play tennis in floodlit or indoor facilities such as those that were at Batchwood.

Mr Draper pledged LTA support to help develop and foster Batchwood’s, “top class programme at this difficult time.”

Cllr Wakely said a project management and design team will shortly be appointed to draw up plans for the new Batchwood centre, which will be open to public consultation.

While the council was taking as many shortcuts to have the rebuild done as quickly as possible, there were constraints as the centre would be built on Green Belt land, “so you can only push so much,” and would thus need to undergo a full planning application process.

A spokeswoman for Herts Police said four men arrested on suspicion of arson following the blaze had been released without charge. Police and fire services are continuing their investigation into the suspected arson.