Northampton tennis club boss says council's 11-month delay over planning application to improve facilities is 'slap in face'

"To be ignored by the council like this feels like a real slap in the face and hugely counter-intuitive"

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 8:15 am

A Northampton tennis club boss said he feels like he is being 'slapped in the face' by the council over a delayed planning application to improve facilities.

Plans to improve facilities at the popular Northampton Lawn Tennis Club (NLTC) in Weston Favell have been on hold for the whole of 2021 due to a lack of response from West Northamptonshire Council (WNC), the club claims.

NLTC's head coach Simon Gallo told Chronicle & Echo of the impact the delay is having on members and volunteers.

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NLTC head coach Simon Gallo

He said: “We pride ourselves on being a friendly, inclusive community club and we are looking to expand so that new and existing members can enjoy the physical and well-being benefits of playing tennis.

"Our club is run by a team of generous, dedicated volunteers who are motivated by seeing both children and adults thrive in many different ways.

"To be ignored by the council like this feels like a real slap in the face and hugely counter-intuitive.

"Surely they should be supporting any community groups who improve the fitness and mental health of people in this town.”

Laura Yardley says joining the beginners' group at NLTC is her 'medicine'

Simon said he first got in touch with the council in January, asking for advice on the planning application, but received no response.

He says he was left 'disappointed' but decided to proceed with drawing up plans before submitting the application and paying the required fee in April.

After receiving confirmation of the application on May 13, he sent further enquiries in June and July, but still received no response.

Simon said he was becoming 'more and more frustrated' and emailed the portfolio holder for planning on October 15.

He says he has since followed up with the council on several occasions and only received a holding response. To this date, the club is 'no further forward'.

Simon said: “It was never my intention to go public with this, but I feel I have no other choice after waiting for 11 months for someone to respond to me.

"How many other community projects are on hold because of this backlog? I owe it to my members, coaches and volunteers to do everything I can to move this situation forward.”

WNC was approached for comment on Tuesday morning but had not responded at the time of publication of this story.

The club added that it has more than 350 members, with a junior programme of 180 children playing weekly.

The proposed expansion would mean that NLTC could build on its existing disability tennis programme and increase the offering to schools, 'helping pupils who may otherwise not have the opportunity to try the sport'.

Laura Yardley, who took part in one of the beginners' session tennis groups after the first national lockdown, said: “Having not picked up a tennis racket since school, I didn’t know what to expect when I turned up at NLTC after lockdown, but I could not have had a warmer welcome.

"I joined a beginners’ group and found the coaching accessible and fun. By doing this, I’ve made a new friendship group and support network.

"As a mental health nurse, I know the importance of wellbeing and tennis is now like my medicine."