A PLAN to introduce an hourly charge at tennis courts across the city as part of a huge investment was backed unanimously by councillors.

Following a successful bid to the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) - which has agreed to put up £215,000 in grants and loans - Worcester City Council is now moving forward with fixing up tennis courts in Cripplegate Park and Gheluvelt Park but has said it would have to start charging to recuperate some of the money.

The council is looking to charge - through an operator - a £7 hourly rate to the city’s tennis lovers to use the new and improved courts.

At a meeting of Worcester City Council’s communities committee on Tuesday (March 12), Councillor Stephen Hodgson said it was a good scheme that would make tennis affordable in the city but asked whether the council was confident it could attract enough people to the tennis courts - particularly in the winter.

Warwick Neal, community engagement officer for the city council, said it was in the best interests of a potential operator to make money and being part of a tennis network would bring a huge focus on marketing and promotion.

Cllr Joy Squires said it would hopefully put tennis on the map in Worcester.

She said: “My guess is that the courts were used by the people who lived nearest to them but this would be able to be used by people across the city.”

Cllr James Stanley, chairman of the committee, said the scheme should be something the city should be really proud of and should be welcomed.

The fees already approved by the council’s policy and resources committee also include a £5 hourly rate for children and various concessionary rates.

The city council would also be looking to open the courts for free from 4pm to 8pm on weekdays and between 10am and 5pm on weekends.

To get the LTA grant and loan money, the city council must find an operator - which it hopes to do within the next six weeks - which would then set up a ‘pay to play’ charge to cover the cost of loan repayments and maintenance costs for the courts.

In line with requirements set out by the LTA the operator would have to offer concessionary rates and free coaching sessions to encourage the city to take part.

Around 18 hours of free sessions are also likely to be held throughout the year.

Money for the tennis court improvements would also come from £50,000 county council highway money put aside as part of the New Road flood alleviation work and £50,000 of the city council’s own money.