Anyone for tennis?: Bedford's refurbished courts ready for action - but it's no longer free

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Bedford’s tennis courts have now been given a much-needed revamp – but it’s come at a price.

Following an investment of £370,000 from the Government and the LTA Tennis Foundation, tennis courts at Bedford Park, Mowsbury Park and Russell Park will soon open – with work already finished at Allen Park and Southfields.

National Tennis Association (NTA) has now been appointed to manage the courts – but you’ll now have to pay. No longer can you just turn up and play.

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Access to the refurbished courts will require bookings, with the introduction of court booking fees which – the council says – will ensure the facilities are maintained.

The tennis courts at Southfields, KempstonThe tennis courts at Southfields, Kempston
The tennis courts at Southfields, Kempston

There’ll now be online booking via a website or booking app. Residents will have the ability to secure court time in advance. If you don’t have access to a smartphone or the internet, you’ll be able to book with by phone.

There’ll be two fee structures – a pay-per-hour rate of £6 for one-off games and a household annual pass priced at £40. Plus, there’ll be a coaching programme for players of all ages and skill levels.

There will be two hours of free informal tennis play available at each of the seven park tennis court sites each week.

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Cllr Henry Vann locked courtsCllr Henry Vann locked courts
Cllr Henry Vann locked courts

But Henry Vann, councillor for one of the affected areas, was not impressed.

He said: “Locked. Empty. Courts. The Conservative administration has shown complete contempt for the views and concerns of local residents. Gone are residents’ free tennis courts, replaced by paid-for access to part of our park with only a paltry two hour-long free slots a week available for booking.

“In Bedford Park alone, there used to be nine free turn up and play courts, now there are three pay-to-play courts. The council must put in place free turn-up-and-play courts alongside these now.”

Councillor Jim Weir, portfolio holder for environment, highways, and transport, said: "The refurbishment of Bedford borough park tennis courts represents a pivotal moment for our community. These facilities serve as vital hubs for sport, recreation, and community engagement, and the improvements will ensure that they continue to fulfil their role for years to come."

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