Club disbands as council tears down its tennis courts

Portchester tennis courts have been dismantled ahead of schedule
Portchester tennis courts have been dismantled ahead of schedule
The Bridge Tavern and Camber Dock''''Picture: Paul Simpso

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A TENNIS club has been disbanded after 58 years as its home tennis courts are cleared to make way for a new community centre.

Members of Portchester Tennis Club played on courts at Portchester Community Centre up until last week.

But the centre is due to be demolished in the new year as a replacement facility opens opposite it.

The new community centre will be run by Portchester Community School and will feature rooms to hire, a police base and children’s centre – but no tennis courts.

Chairman of the tennis club Jeff Sparshott, 64, said: ‘I’m just absolutely gutted. I started playing on public courts when I was only 14 years old.

‘Where are people in Portchester going to play now?’

Portchester Tennis Club started in 1954 on one tennis court at Newtown. Members moved to the site at Portchester Community Centre in 1971 after the original court fell into disrepair.

The club was so popular it had over 100 members during its heyday in the 70s.

‘But the numbers have been in slow decline.

‘The uncertainty of the club combined with the state of the courts has led the group’s numbers to dwindle to just 20.

Portchester West Tory councillor Nick Walker said: ‘The courts were in a terrible state of repair and we had complaints from neighbouring households about anti-social behaviour on the courts late at night.

‘The police asked us to do something with the courts. The membership of the tennis club was so low and with it being winter the council decided to remove the courts so that the new centre could progress.’

Mr Sparshott said he was particularly upset about the lack of consultation with the club by the council.

Portchester Community School has offered the club a lifeline, if members want to reform.

But members of the tennis club were worried that they would not have the free access they would like during the daytime.

Lucy Redfern, community leader at the school, said: ‘We have new tennis courts which can be used by the public and people from the community. We are a community school so we are open to the community, should they wish to get in touch.’

Miss Redfern said: ‘Obviously the safety of our children is paramount but there are times when we are not using the courts during the day which we could consider allowing a club to practise if they could commit to a regular time each week.’