Henman wages uncharacteristic war against closure of golf and tennis centre
Thursday, 20 October 2011
October 20 - British tennis legend Tim Henman, silver medallist at the Atlanta Olympics, is campaigning to prevent a London Council from threatening the existence of a hugely popular Hounslow-based golf and tennis centre following a planning row.
"I haven't chained myself to a set of railings yet, but if I find any I will," Henman said, as the news was released that Hounslow Council officers are going to refuse retrospective planning permission for a "bubble" that covers five courts at the club.
A member of a London 2012 Athletes Advisory Panel, Henman is incensed that when the issue of an Olympic legacy is so high on the sporting and cultural agenda, one London Council is threatening a pay-as-you-play facility at Dukes Meadows that hosts up to 1,000 children a week.
"It's completely mad to do something that stops children playing sport," said the former British number one.
"We're lamenting the fact that so many of our children are staying at home on their computers and trying to inspire them to have a more healthy active lifestyle - and now that very opportunity is being massively jeopardised by a planning permission technicality.
"I really hope the Council see sense."
Dukes Meadows, recently upgraded at a cost of £2 million ($3.1 million/€2.3 million), maintains a policy of zero-exclusion, which it combines with an Lawn Tennis Association (LTA)-backed elite programme that has helped develop Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong, both in the women's tennis top 100, and local teenager, Ollie Golding, who won the US Open boy's title last month.
"It's not an exclusive club," said Henman.
"It's not a privately-run club that you have to pay a fortune to join.
"It's open to everyone in the community.
"I come down here and hit with the kids and the guys in the Performance Academy from time to time.
"I means a lot to me because I owned my first home in London around close by...and it's got golf here."
Henman, famously addicted to the second sport in his life, has become a scratch golfer since his retirement from tennis in 2007.
The future of the whole club remains uncertain while the planning row continues and its fate will be decided at a Council Planning Committee at the end of the month.
It is understood that that council officer will recommend that planning permission is refused.
Henman continued: "We have few enough places in London, in the whole country, where kids can just turn up and play for a fiver.
"Here we are trying to build a legacy for the sport and the country as a whole, and here is a Council tearing up that legacy even before the Games begin.
"I don't want to be negative towards the Council, but the bubble isn't a hindrance to the local community, it is a huge asset."
The bubble in question covers five of the courts to form a high-quality indoor venue, a facility of which the country is not over-endowed.
"The weather is starting to turn cold," Henman added.
"It is an absolute necessity if you are going to play tennis in Britain.
"It is already in place.
"It's not an eyesore.
"I really struggle to understand the thinking behind the Council's refusal to let it remain.
"The Olympics are coming and what a great chance we have to improve our levels of participation in sport, our standard of play, the social mix of our players and our general health.
"We, as a country, have invested billions in these Games and we've got to utilise them not spoil the opportunity for our children."
Meanwhile, after Andy Murray's recent winning streak across Asia, Henman backed the British number one to be a serious contender for the Olympic title at the London Games.
He would join an exclusive club of British Olympic tennis medallists: two - Henman himself and his partner in the doubles at Atlanta, Neil Broad.