Planners rejected a bid to build four tennis courts and a small clubhouse on the outskirts of Ely claiming the site “has failed to demonstrate that the development is sustainably located by foot and cycle”. Ironically the refusal by East Cambridgeshire District Council comes only months after the city’s MP Lucy Frazer “a massive tennis fan” and who is also Culture Secretary pledged millions to boost the sport “whether you live in the middle of a city or a small village”.
The application was also backed by the Lawn Tennis Association who wrote to East Cambs Council explaining demand in the area for more tennis courts.
“The project to build new courts supports the LTA’s vision of Tennis Opened Up,” the association said.
“With the track record of the provider, and based on conversations about the project’s ambitions, I am confident that the facility will be an asset to the community.”
Carter Jonas, on behalf of the applicants 10is Academy, said they had been fortunate “to be presented with an opportunity to provide the new tennis facility on land adjoining the new Ben’s Yard retail/leisure development at Stuntney.
“The significant benefit of this would be the co-location of a tennis facility close to the new shops, cafés and restaurants, children’s play area, countryside walks, a purpose-built new vehicular access and parking.
“The location of the new facility would be accessible to a wide catchment, being 3km from the edge of Ely (there is a continuous footpath between the site and railway station through Stuntney) 4km from the edge of Soham, and a number of nearby outlying villages e.g. Stuntney, Witchford, Isleham, Fordham, Wicken, Prickwillow, Stretham, Wilburton, Little Thetford etc.
“Prior to this, East Cambridgeshire District Council, and the Church Commissioners (Ely North proposals) had been approached to determine whether any land could be made available from either of the land assets, without success.
“No other sites have been promoted by landowners for sporting/leisure uses.”
But East Cambs Council says the new tennis club is outside the development framework of Stuntney, Soham and Ely “and therefore in a countryside location.
“Proposals for new community facilities should be located within settlement boundaries wherever possible”.
Exceptional circumstances only
The council says only in exceptional circumstances could such facilities be permitted in the countryside where there is a lack of suitable and available land within settlements, or where a rural location is required.
“The proposal has failed to demonstrate that these exceptional circumstances have been met through lack of supporting information indicating why this rural location is required,” says the council.
“The proposed development does not meet the exception as it has failed to identify a need for tennis court in this location, resulting in unstainable development.”
“By virtue of its siting, scale and urbanising appearance, the proposal would result in an incongruous form of development that would detract from the rural nature of the site that is exposed to open fields to the north and east.”
The council ruled that the proposal “is considered to be unsustainable and the applicant was informed of officer concerns regarding principle of development, visual impact and biodiversity”.
One Love Tennis CIC
The application had been made by One Love Tennis CIC, funding the development for 10is Academy, an Ely tennis club.
The proposals comprised four tennis courts with a small clubhouse and an area of parking. The tennis club would have utilised the access to Ben’s Yard.
The small single storey clubhouse was envisaged “to be akin to the appearance of a large garden shed / portacabin, that would be brought onto site pre-constructed”.
Carter Jonas submitted a planning statement on behalf of the applicant (‘One Love Tennis Community Interest Company (CIC).
“One Love Tennis CIC, as applicant, would be the funding the delivery of the proposed development for 10is Academy, an existing local tennis academy that supports a range of groups including adaptive tennis (SEND), toddlers, juniors (ages 6-17 years) and adults,” said Carter Jonas.
“Overall, 10is Academy has 148 members with 34 girls, 55 boys, 27 men and 26 women, split into two mixed, two women and four men teams in addition to teams for players under 8, 9 and 10 and two teams each for players under 13 and 16.
“10is Academy has operated since April 2022 and has seen significant interest and growth, with 70 members originally, with one head coach, a number of LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) seasonal assistant coaches for the holiday camps and three tennis leaders.
“The ethos of 10is Academy to foster the growth and transfer of professional tennis expertise for both players and instructors while ensuring an enjoyable and welcoming experience and promoting a culture of higher learning.”
10is Academy separate from King’s School
The club and coaching activities are currently based at King’s School, Ely although 10is Academy is a wholly separate entity to the school i.e. it’s not a school-based academy).
It rents out three tennis courts throughout most of the year and is currently operating at almost maximum capacity, with the courts being utilised over 82% of the time.
“This hinders expansion and growth of 10is Academy,” Carter Jonas told planners.”
“The Kings School, Ely facilities have provided an excellent base for 10is Academy to establish itself and grow.
“However, the short-term, annual rental review of the courts provides a huge amount of uncertainty and risk to 10is Academy i.e. if the school decides that it cannot continue renting out the courts (as it may, understandably, have its own usage requirements), it would leave 10is Academy without courts to coach, train and play its matches on.
“10is Academy would not be able to continue without facilities, putting at risk the social, educational, health and wellbeing benefits that its youth and adult members currently benefit from.”
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