OPINION: We need to preserve the Globe Tennis Club as a green space

Globe Tennis club members protest over proposed Sainsbury's in Belsize Park in 2016. Photo: Nigel Su

Globe Tennis club members protest over proposed Sainsbury's in Belsize Park in 2016. Photo: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Every green space that can be saved from concrete and desolation must be celebrated, writes Hampstead solicitor Jessica Learmond-Criqui.

That is why I admire Camden Council’s hard fought victory over HS2 Ltd with regards to keeping Adelaide Road Nature Reserve open to the public during the disruptive HS2 works. With over 1,700 households being told to keep their windows closed for the next 17 years while noisy and dusty works continue, every bit of green space which remains open to the public is hard won.

Given this successful battle, why then is Camden Council so keen to snuff out another bit of green space in the heart of Hampstead and Belsize, namely the tennis club grounds which is better known as Globe Tennis Club on Haverstock Hill.

For those unfamiliar with this story, Camden Council owns the lease to the Globe Tennis Club. The club, which is 63 years old, comprises six outdoor courts, a club house and car park. It has the benefit of a “protected” lease from the Council that expired in 2014 and is currently holding over.

All negotiations are agreed except for one clause which Camden Council officers are insisting on, which is a landlord’s break option which will kick in as early as January 2019. The reason for the break option is to enable the Council to undertake a comprehensive mixed-use, residential-led redevelopment once planning consent is granted. A feasibility study has been commissioned which provides for high density housing together with a nominal leisure facility which does not cater for a re-provided tennis club on site or elsewhere in the borough.

The break option will see the closure of the club because the uncertainty of the future of the grounds will result in the attrition of members and inability to plan financially for the club’s future.

Tennis – “bah”, I hear you say – housing must be more important than such an activity. But this is no ordinary tennis club. The club unusually offers a dedicated programme of coaching to non-members. Upwards of 300 children are coached at the club including those from nearby state schools and the Russell Nursery Estate, with some being offered work experience placements. Free coaching is offered to the visually impaired. This is not simply an exclusive club for a few privileged folk but it is a throbbing heart at the center of this community.

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Noise and dust will be the norm for the next 20 years so that an oasis such as the Globe is essential to feed our souls. The Globe is every bit as important as the Adelaide Road Nature Reserve and needs the same resolve and determination of Camden Council to fight for its survival.

A 1,079 strong petition calling on Camden to withdraw its insistence on the development clause and to safeguard the Globe for future generations can be found at https://www.change.org/p/camden-council-save-london-s-pioneering-tennis-club.

I and many others call on Camden Council officers to rethink their insistence on a strategy to remove this site forever from the love and laughter of a community who benefit from its regenerative properties. Green space must not be sacrificed at the alter of a strategy on housing which sees many developments deliver unaffordable housing for the many.