Quiet please, the players are ready: Planners set to umpire row over Hampstead tennis club's floodlights bid

Thursday, 29th September 2016 — By Ella Jessel

Tennis Pic Michael Duxbury

FOR tennis fans the gentle sound of balls pinging to and fro across a lawn court might conjure up nostalgic memories of a spot of jovial mixed ­doubles on long, red-sky summer evenings.

But neighbours in Hampstead have complained the racket caused by players at the West Heath Lawn Tennis club will actually prove a “nuisance” after it applied for floodlights that would enable matches to go on once darkness has fallen.

With the row set to be umpired by council planning officials, some club members have even raised objections to the plan to install nine steel floodlights on the outdoor courts.

Plans filed at the Town Hall by club president Dr Sultan Gangji request permission to build the six-metre high green columns around the edges of two of its courts to allow people to play until 9.30pm.

In its application, the club, which describes itself as a “grassy idyll”, explains that the floodlights have been designed with the latest anti-spillage technology to prevent light pollution from the courts.

But residents living nearby are unconvinced and have sent a volley of letters to the Town Hall arguing their properties will be in the line of the glare and they will be disturbed by noise from games carrying on late into the evening.

One objection said the light pollution could shine through into children’s bedroom windows and stop them from sleeping, while another warns that the 100-year-old tennis club is at risk of becoming an expanded sports centre,

Cedric De La Chaise said in a letter published on Camden Council’s website that the proposals would lead to disturbance for residents living nearby.

“We have been active members of the club for more than a decade and would argue the club does not need lights. The number of members has increased significantly in the last five years and the club is now near maximum capacity. Yet the courts are frequently empty during the daylight at weekends.”

He said that in winter months the surface was “dangerously slippery” to play on.

“This is a conservation area, house owners are restricted to what they can do with their facade (eg satellite dishes, floodlights) or trees,” he added.

“Therefore I struggle to understand how the club could get permission.”

Another objection said: “What was once a quiet neighbourhood with the gentle sounds of a few tennis balls being hit

during the summer months, muffled by the surrounding leaves and greenery, is now to become perhaps a venue for five-a-side football in a future incarnation.”

The West Heath Lawn Tennis club was approached for comment but had not responded last night (Wednesday).

In paperwork submitted to the council’s planning department, the floodlights’ designers said the spillage of light from the court would be minimal.

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