A tennis club could take over courts at a Hoole park but it would mean introducing charges for players where the facility is currently free.
Cash-strapped Cheshire West and Chester Council is consulting on a potential £400,000 upgrade of Alexandra Park.
But what isn’t mentioned is that discussions are ongoing that could see Hoole Tennis Club – soon to be Mickle Trafford Tennis Club – operating and maintaining the courts for a charge and possibly running a proposed new community café.
Already in the public domain is a plan to reduce the number of tennis courts from six to five to create separation between the courts in line with Lawn Tennis Association recommendations as well as allowing the opportunity to widen the park entrance.
Talking about possible future arrangements for the courts, a council spokesman said: “This could involve the council and the club collaborating and a booking scheme, with charging set up for both the club and the park courts. If and when details of an offer are agreed there will be a public consultation.”
“The reason for working together with Hoole Lawn Tennis Club is to promote the sport. Charging will provide an income to maintain the courts.”
Asked whether such a charge could deter budding tennis players from poorer backgrounds, he responded: “It’s important that young people are encouraged to take up the sport and we would not expect charging to prevent this.”
In addition, the council has not dismissed a suggestion that Hoole Tennis Club could end up running the proposed café, which would be on the site of the dilapidated veterans’ hut.
But a spokesman said: “There is a proposal for a café building with public toilets and the council is seeking views on whether local residents would welcome this. The café building could be put out to tender but this is for discussion later.”
The council will be keen to get the community on side after the previous Tory administration upset some residents by selling off the former park keeper’s lodge to private developers.
And it has now been confirmed the £249,000 proceeds from the sale of the lodge will be used as a funding source for the park improvements together with grants.
At one time there was an aspiration the lodge could be turned into a community café.
Improvements could include upgrading paths and flower beds, new seats and signage as well as introducing a wider variety of trees and ‘wet areas’ to promote bio-diversity.
On Friday (January 19) a drop-in session was held at the park pavilion so residents could view and comment on the masterplan. Additional events are planned as the scheme evolves.
Hoole councillor Alex Black, who attended the consultation, told The Chronicle: “The park is looking tired at present even though we have put in some exciting new play equipment, which is very popular. If the park can be smartened up, it would be more appealing to members of the public, just to come in and enjoy it.
“This masterplan for the park isn’t the final masterplan. What we’re here for today is to get people’s views on it – find out what they like, what they don't like – if they’ve got any better ideas than our officers to make it the people’s park really.”