Cllr Pauline Hazell (Conservative, Shrub End Ward) has been working with local activist, Angela Linghorn-Baker to support Shrub End residents who have used the Eudo Road courts for more than a decade; trying to get Colchester Borough Council to invest in what is a much needed sports facility.

Colchester Borough Council has steadfastly refused to engage with me or Shrub End residenrs who have put forward viable means of improving and enhancing all  the centre has to offer to tennis players across the Borough. It has become a catch22 - the facility needs refurbishing, the Council refuses, the courts therefore fall into some disrepair and it is made harder for players to use them. Ipso facto - the courts aren’t needed, let's build on them.

The reply in today’s Gazette, a spokesman for the Lib-Dem / Labour Coalition that controls the Council said: “Given the budget challenge we are facing we are currently re-viewing all of the services we provide and all of the assets we own to ensure we are able to make the best use of them for the benefit of the borough in the future”, is somewhat disingenuous, given that it is the stock answer given by the Council over many years.

Local residents and players have not forgotten the fight we had a few years ago when the Council proposed taking away some of the courts to build houses. We managed to stop that. Now, the Council’s refusal to give a straight answer to genuine concerns gives rise to the real fear that housebuilding is definitely on the cards.

The south side of Colchester has very few sports facilities. All the Council’s efforts and money is being channelled to the north of the town. The Council appears to have  bottomless pockets when it comes to bailing out Leisure World or investing in the massive sports facilities planned for the Northern Gateway, yet investment into the Eudo Road Tennis Courts which provide a much needed sporting opportunity in the south falls on deaf ears. Not for the first time do I wonder why? Putting all its eggs in the Northern Gateway basket would surely damage the Council’s greener and cleaner claims?

A continuing disappointment to me is the Council’s refusal to work with local residents, players, and myself who see a way forward to promote the Club. We are confident that with the right attitude and willingness to progress the tennis centre would be a money earner for the Council. Sadly such a notion has been dismissed consistently, hence the cynicism I and many others feel, that the Council see the land the tennis courts occupy, as a cash cow.

Given Covid19 and the importance sport of all kinds has become for the general health and well-being of adults and children,  it is anathema that the Council should even be thinking of building on these tennis courts. A failure of the Council to engage with interested parties only fuels the fear and uncertainty over the future of the Centre.

In the past my efforts to engage with the Council on this issue have been ignored by the Lib-Dem / Labour Coalition, is it too much to ask that it now does engage, to secure the future of this much needed and much loved tennis centre?

Cllr Pauline Hazell
Shrub End Ward.

2020-09-09