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Stapleford Tennis Club
The Recreation Ground
Stapleford Tennis Club has run the two outdoor courts on the Recreation Ground at Stapleford, Cambridgeshire, since 1959 when the club was first conceived and the courts built.
The Parish Council purchased the Recreation Ground from the District Council in 2012, which necessitated a revised lease (since the original lease was between the tennis club and the District Council, dating back to 1964). Thus in 2014 a new lease was signed, and for reasons best known to those involved at the time, that lease had a short date of only five years on it.
In 2016, the club requested an extension to the lease, in order to be able to apply for additional grant funding for the now-urgent refurbishment works required. (The club had already alerted the PC three years earlier that refurbishment would be needed by 2016.) In June 2016, the Parish Council's minutes record that they would be happy to grant an extended lease of 21 years to the club ... however, after nearly four years of protracted negotiations (including in 2018 a proposal to build entirely new courts on a site behind the Primary School), in late April 2020, the Parish Council informed the club's officers that it "no longer wishes to offer a new lease". We have received a 'Letter of Surrender' for the lease, which we have yet to sign. We understand that Landlord and Tenants Act rights still apply.
Stapleford Tennis Club has always been a very friendly, family-orientated and welcoming club, open to any and all from the village and surroundings. There are a few serious and skillfull players, but the majority enjoy it as a sociable activity with a better calories-in:calories-out ratio than a trip to a cafe or pub. Membership fees are a necessary evil because of the arrangement whereby all court maintenance - both regular annual needs and long-term periodic refurbishment - is paid for by the club, who also pay a small annual rent to the Parish Council.
In 2014 and 2015 we ran successful and popular Junior Coaching sessions, as well as having various Open Sessions for non-members. At that time our membership numbers topped 200 members, split roughly evenly between male and female, adult and child; this was far in excess of the LTA's standard expectation of numbers of members per court for a club such as this.
In 2016 we extended the coaching to some Adult sessions, but take-up was dissapointing. We decided in 2017 that we would have to suspend our coaching programme as well as club sessions, because of the poor state of the playing surface which was evidently putting clients off. We also reduced membership fees in successive years to compensate for the deterioation of the surface, and then in 2019 stopped taking fees altogether. Consequently we now have no income at all, and are eating through our sinking fund just to keep up the basic maintenance.
The Club shares the LTA's mission and purpose, which is to "Get more people playing tennis more often" in order to enrich lives through tennis. We would be only too glad to move to a new arrangement whereby the Parish Council manages the grounds maintenance and any capital projects, while we run the LTA-affiliated Club and get on with the rewarding part of it, i.e. running coaching and tournaments and so on. We can dream.