Recreation ground plan could benefit sport club

First published in News Swindon Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , @BerenCross

AMBITIOUS plans to overhaul St Mark’s Recreation Ground in Whitehouse Road are set to transform the fortunes of Swindon Tennis Club.

A planning application has been lodged for a new pavilion, 25 floodlights, additional car parking and associated works at the Gorse Hill facility.

Swindon Council is now inviting contractors to express their interest in taking on the project which, once completed, would effectively be leased to the tennis club for more than 20 years.

A lease of such length would enable the club to attract funding from sporting governing bodies.

Richard Freeman, a communications officer at the council, said: “Swindon Tennis Club has been running the tennis courts for some time.

“There is a hope they will take over the running of the whole thing, once it’s developed, on a long lease for between 20 and 25 years.

“A lease of that length would allow the club to secure funding from Sport England and the Lawn Tennis Association. They will run it on the council’s behalf.”

Community tennis will be the sole use of the new development, should it go ahead.

Any decision on changing its use, at any stage, would come before the council, ensuring the tennis club does not abuse its lease.

The work would be undertaken using Section 106 money and the site would remain a community asset and not be sold off to any trust or private sector company.

Neil Allen, chairman of Swindon Tennis Club, said: “There is a basic need to get a clubhouse here. We have been very limited by the portable cabins we use for several years.

“For the whole park and wider area there will be the benefit of a new pavilion and cafe, as well as proper car parking, which has also been needed for a while. It’s a very big project.”

Floodlighting is to be extended to the remaining 10 unlit courts, to allow for their extended hours of use. The car park will be enlarged and enhanced to accommodate overflow during popular days and tournaments.

The pavilion has been located adjacent to and opposite the main block of tennis courts for ease of use and viewing during tournaments.

The internal arrangements include two toilets for users of the courts and pavilion generally, with the main space serving as a cafe and social space.

The deadline for expressions of interest, in writing, is no later than noon on May 30.

Interested contractors should note, construction is anticipated for a September 2014 start date, with invitations to tender issued next month.

Those interested should write to: Nic Newland, Head of Design and Architecture, Resources, Swindon Council, Euclid Street, SN1 2JH.

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