The next Andy Murray is unlikely to be from Midlothian

Wednesday July 4th 2018

Tennis Court Dalkeith

Written by editor, Phil Bowen

Traditionally at this time of year, when Wimbledon is in full flow, then kids across the country grab their forgotten rackets and head to find somewhere to play. Inspired by watching Andy Murray play on the Wimbledon grass courts.

Unfortunately it is not so easy to play on a tennis court in Midlothian as they are few and very far between.

There are two courts in King’s Park, Dalkeith, that whilst they are a little tired do provide an opportunity for kids and adults to play.

However, this time last year the council’s Sports and Leisure team started to lock the two courts, which also double up as 5 a-side football pitches, and enforce payment for courts.

Locals were bemused as no one ever knew that payment was required. There had been no notices and the gates were always open 24 hours a day. Consequently the courts/pitches were in constant use. Kids played after school or at weekends. Residents just assumed that it was a public facility. It was not the greatest surface but it was free and all were grateful.

So now the courts are locked and very rarely used.

The council have also imposed a very bizarre and expensive charging regime.

Unlike almost every other tennis court in the land, strangely Midlothian council charge by the player rather than the court. So a tennis player is charged £4.80 per hour (£2.90 concession). Play a singles match and it will cost £9.60. Play a sociable game of doubles and the cost rises to a whopping £19.20.

Prefer to play football and the cost is an eye watering £28.

These prices just seem odd and expensive given the tired state of the court.

In contrast, in the Meadows, Edinburgh, you can play on a much better surface and the court costs £9 (£4.50 concession). Edinburgh charge for the court not the player.

Midlothian View contacted the council to ask how often the courts were booked and how much income they generated. We were very shocked to find out that the Sport and Leisure manager could not tell us.

All the money goes into “one pot” we were told. How the council accounts for all the monies paid or how they check whether it is a profitable or loss making service is anyone’s guess.

We were told to submit a Freedom of Information (FOI) request as that would give them more time to find the answer. The FOI has been submitted but you’ll have to wait 20 working days for the answer.

Given that the court/pitch never appears to be in use and given that it is covered in fallen leaves that look to have been there a while, not pushed away by busy players’ feet, we suspect that use of these courts is next to zero.

This is such a shame and so short sighted by the Sport and Leisure team. Given the courts are already there, given the surface is tired but robust in an old fashioned way, given the only cost is providing a tennis net, given they are not currently receiving any income, given the push to get kids more active, given it would introduce kids to tennis then we think this decision needs a rethink.

Midlothian View calls on the council to open the gates once more. Let adults and kids play for free again. Let’s be active.

Who knows, in twenty years time the next Andy Murray might well come from Midlothian!

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