Future of tennis courts is secure thanks to family

Chief executive John Cooke and director Molly Ball and Betty Corbett from Canoe Lake Leisure
Chief executive John Cooke and director Molly Ball and Betty Corbett from Canoe Lake Leisure
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Southsea’s public tennis courts have been saved for future generations thanks to mystery benefactors.

Canoe Lake Leisure unveiled its ambitious plans to restore the 12 grass courts and two hard courts to their former glory.

It hopes the work will encourage professional players to tournaments on the coast.

The benefactors, who wish to remain anonymous, have set up the company and secured a lease on the tennis courts and the bowls green for the next 25 years.

The entire area was run-down with Portsmouth City Council lacking the money to invest in it or even maintain the site.

Around a dozen residents joined John Cooke, the chief executive officer of the project, for a tour.

Mr Cooke said: ‘The Lawn Tennis Association is very excited about this facility.

‘The profile of grass courts is going to shoot up in the next few seasons and we’re very lucky to have these courts.

‘There is no ulterior motive, no external funding.

‘It’s a community project and we hope the community get a lot of pleasure from it.’

Director Molly Ball was keen to stress the courts will not be part of ‘an elite club’ but will remain pay and play, for the people.

The plans were welcomed by residents.

Barry Teale, whose apartment in Cresta Court overlooks the area, said: ‘At one stage the council put forward a horrendous plan to turn the entire site into a barbecue area.

‘This is certainly a far healthier prospect for everyone.’

Beryl Denny, of Bruce Road, said: ‘I’m very enthusiastic about it.’

The southern bowls green will have four artificial grass tennis courts built on them but the northern green is part of a separate entity – a private nursery which will be built on the spot of the men’s bowls pavilion.

The ladies’ bowls pavilion will become an upmarket cafe.

It adjoins the Southsea Greenhouse which will provide some of the organic produce.

Behind the grass courts a wide unused pathway will become a wild meadow and orchard.

A planning application has been submitted and, if approved, work could start in a couple of months.

A public tour takes place on Saturday, April 26, at 11am at the former bowls club.