THE NEED FOR COURT LIGHTING
The best way to show your support for our application is to submit your comments on the WODC planning portal (reference: 21/00261/FUL) by the deadline of 25 March 2021.
Wychwoods Tennis Club has applied for permission to install lights on two courts. These pages aim to explain the benefits this will bring to our community, how the addition of floodlights will work practically, and the extensive work done to mitigate and remove technical and ecological concerns. We also aim to reply to some of the objections raised by our neighbours.
‘I am 8 years old and I love playing tennis. If we have lights in Wychwood we can play full year-round instead of going to White Horse in winter. And because of going to White Horse we have travel 2 hours! And if we put up lights we can play and train more’. - Junior member comments taken from WODC planning portal
With 435 members (up 95 in the past year alone), it is obvious that tennis is a popular sport and that we are a popular club, offering many varied opportunities to play tennis socially and competitively, improve fitness and meet new people.
We are a local club, with 24% of members living in Shipton, 42% in the Wychwood’s and 57% under 5 miles away. We offer a comprehensive and popular coaching programme in which more than 100 junior members and 70 adults participate.
Lack of floodlights means that the hours available for coaching after school all year round is restricted impacting several aspects of play for all members, but particularly juniors, at the club:
- At present during the winter months parents and juniors are having to travel to Chipping Norton or Oxford for evening coaching. This not only adds to the costs for both parents and the club to cover the court hire but also causes inconvenience for siblings not involved and has associated environmental impact due to increased travel. These added costs are unsustainable in the long term, and not all parents are able to afford this luxury.
- The Club supports and uses New Beaconsfield Hall for tennis coaching for children from the age of four. There are six groups at present: when these groups are ready to play outside there is no space for them to progress during the winter due to lack of light.
- Most of the junior winter coaching must happen on two courts on a Saturday morning from 8-1pm: this reduces the amount of court time for adult members who are at work all week and also for families to play together.
- Competition for juniors is important but during the winter the junior box league cannot take place because there’s no time after school and at weekends as there is much more demand on court time.
- Working adults are unable to participate in the coaching programme or play socially during the week outside of the summer months.
- Demand for courts during daylight hours becomes much greater during the winter and members need to juggle their working hours to fit in some exercise time.
- Without court lighting we risk losing our full-time professional tennis coach and putting the valued coaching programme at risk. Being a professional coach is an all-year-round job and the club cannot sustain his commitment if there is little or no work in the winter.
We identified through our club survey that some people found it hard to find court time to suit them – and 89% of members who completed our annual survey also said they wanted lights.
Covid-19 has underlined the importance of mental and physical well-being particularly for children and families – and we have a facility that can help with this that is in effect ‘closed’ for many months of the year simply due to a lack of sensitively and appropriately designed lighting.
We believe the addition of lights will also provide some benefits within the wider community and these are outlined here.
We are mindful that there are some downsides to lighting two of our courts and have sought to understand and mitigate them as much as possible. We believe that the wide range of benefits that extra sport and activity would bring outweigh those disadvantages.
Below we seek to respond to some objections which have been circulated within the local community.
The lighting has been designed to comply with an Area of Natural Beauty using a luminaire with excellent spill control system to maintain the amenity of residents, the safety of road users and the dark landscape. The lights face directly downwards onto the courts and will give 0% upwards light spill. They will be fitted with side and rear shields to further prevent any spill and glare. Read more about the lighting technology to be used here
The recently installed floodlights at Wychwood Primary School next to a pond and a river was granted approval by WODC: there is local precedent for similar lighting in the AONB and Conservation Area.
The Club is willing to improve neighbouring hedgerows to screen any impact on the neighbouring garden.
The use of slimline, neutral coloured equipment will help to reduce the daytime impact of the installation.
Ecological impact assessment
Biodiversity and ecological impact expert reports indicate that wildlife will not be at risk because of the lights.
A comprehensive biodiversity study accepted as satisfactory by the biodiversity officer at WODC for their needs indicates that the lights will not have an adverse effect on wildlife.
This detailed study of the local ecology was undertaken by an independent ecological consultant, from which it is considered that no ecological designations, habitats of nature conservational interest or that any protected species would be adversely affected by the proposed development. Read the consultant’s report here.
As agreed in a pre-application with the Biodiversity Officer at WODC, in order to offset any potential impact on the surrounds the Club is willing to provide ecological benefits by providing suitable bird and bat boxes in various mature trees around the site in addition to a substantial enhancement with further planting to the existing native hedgerow. provide winter shelter for wildlife
As detailed in the ecological impact assessment the proposed lights comply with ILP bats and lighting 2018 guidance note.
The latest lighting technology directs light onto the court surface with minimal light spill beyond the playing area and 0% light upspill. The lighting design has been planned in accordance with the policies of the AONB and Conservation area. Three lighting plans were submitted in a pre-application to WODC: WODC advised that the nine column six metre option was the most discrete and this is the one included in the application.
The lights are very similar to those used on the MUGA pitch at Wychwood Primary School but will be oriented in a horizontal position therefore giving less light spill.
The lighting has been designed to comply with the LTA recommended illuminance level of 500 Lux average over the principal play area of the court for match play should this be required. The system will allow for each court to be illuminated individually or as a block of two. The lights can be dimmed to a recreational standard of 300 Lux for coaching and non-competitive play. This is the same luminosity as the lights at Wychwood Primary Schools.
The lights will only be lit when someone is playing on court and each court can be lit separately. There will be a curfew at 9.30pm and lights will turn off automatically through a motion sensor.
The lights will be fully funded by the club. In addition, we propose to install a smart gate to enable use of the court by non-members also funded by the Club.
Shipton is a vibrant village that provides facilities for the Wychwood’s and the surrounding area. We are pleased to see a significant number of varied comments of support on the WODC planning portal from both members and non-members cross a wide age range.
Almost half of our 435 members live either in the village or within the Wychwood’s area. The club adds to those facilities that attract people to the village - helping all village amenities to benefit. Indeed, the tennis club was used as a promotional feature in the Deanfield brochure.
During recent difficult times more and more people have realised the need for activity and tennis has proved to be one of the safest sports. The Club has provided community support during the pandemic running free courses using tennis to improve mental health and wellbeing.
We propose to install a smartgate as part of our application to allow non-members to use the courts thereby allowing more local residents to benefit from access to this sporting facility.
Our motivation is to provide health, community, sport, and mental and physical well-being for Shipton and the wider Wychwood’s area – for both children and adults. This can be achieved simply by releasing extra capacity that is out of use for no reason other than darkness.
The club accepts that this natural evolution of the village and community comes with some consequences. There would be some minimal light visible to some neighbours when the courts are in use - but these modest implications have all been mitigated or overcome in our application.
Please support our lighting application No. 21/00261/FUL
Submit support comments online before 25 March here: WODC website
Email: [email protected]
Write: Head of Planning, West Oxfordshire District Council, Elmfield, New Yatt Road, Witney OX28 1PB
Telephone: 01993 861000
Quoting: Planning Ref. No. 21/00261/FUL and including your name and address.