A group of over 700 local residents are up in arms about the digging up of one of the eight indoor tennis courts which are in constant use at the Westway Sports and Fitness Centre. The court area is to be replaced with a gym, which owner, the charity Westway Trust, says will serve more people and help the more disadvantaged. So far 720 locals have signed a petition to keep the indoor court open.
Last year, Westway Trust gave the contract to manage the sports centre to Everyone Active, a private company which specialises in community sports facilities. Before the handover it seems Westway Trust chief executive Angela McConville was keener on tennis, telling the London Weekly News in July 2015 that: “We have state-of-the-art facilities that include eight indoor courts and two outdoor clay courts. Our Performance Centre is accredited by the Lawn Tennis Association and we take players with talent from mini-tennis through to elite. The tennis centre is thriving. The success of tennis at Westway is a lesson for us all.”
In planning the recent shrinking of the tennis facilities the Westway Trust says it hopes to encourage more people to exercise. “Westway Trust is a small charity and part of our strategy is to encourage inactive people in our local area to take part in physical activity,” says McConville. “We are replacing one tennis court of ten with a fitness centre so that we can provide additional exercise opportunities that appeal to many different people, such as younger and older people, those referred by GPs and those on lower incomes … we are projected to reach 3,000 more people who currently do not exercise, in an area with significant existing health inequalities.”
But tennis player Maja Neske says locals are deeply unhappy with the way not only the indoor tennis courts but a range of community sports facilities are being managed: “Claiming to have canvassed 1,400 people, [Westway Trust] are proceeding with converting an indoor tennis court into a gym, as well as closing the squash courts at the sister centre on Portobello Green.” Neske also feels The Westway Trust and Everyone Active are not only alienating the local community, but adds: “While a gym can be installed into any kind of shape and space, of which there is ample spare at the Sports Centre, a tennis court which needs rectangular 25m x 15m simply cannot be replicated elsewhere.” (pic right, the contested space.)
There is a longstanding anger within our community about the changing of community facilities. The closure of pubs, libraries and nurseries. Neske says: “Our main concern is that we have not been asked and that is has been decided behind closed doors. We feel The Trust has a responsiblity to talk to the community about changes like this” … change.org and here is more about The Trust and it’s community work … westway