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© Penicuik Tennis Club

Campaigners Serve Up Survival Plea

Penicuik Tennis Club is gearing up for its toughest match yet, after Midlothian Council announced plans to build housing on the land currently occupied by their courts.

Midlothian currently plays host to only two tennis clubs, but the future of the sport in the county is now in doubt with the council’s decision to construct up to twenty social houses on land at Kirkhill, currently occupied by tennis courts.

Penicuik Tennis Club was founded in 2012 and now grants over two hundred members the regular use of their courts off Kirkhill Road. Hosting regular tournaments and just-for-fun championships, the courts have become a hive of activity for all ages. In two years, four coaches have been hired, providing young and old with lessons in the sport, some of which are offered in conjunction with Active Scotland.

However, the club, relies on its Kirkhill courts to function. This lifeline could be removed in the latest phase of social housing to be constructed in the town. The new Midlothian Local Development Plan proposes the allocation of the brownfield land off Kirkhill Road to housing. This 2.7 acre site is largely vacant, however the north-eastern corner is home to the tennis courts. The document states that up to twenty houses would be built on site, a 50% reduction since initial plans were revealed last year. However, rather than eradication of the courts, Penicuik Tennis Club is campaigning for the council to adopt a mixed-use strategy, allowing the courts to operate alongside the housing plans. Secretary of the club, Caroline Wylie, told us:

We hope to encourage Midlothian Council to think more creatively about the space at the Kirkhill site so that the proposed 20 units of social housing can be located on the upper two flat parts of the land and the tennis courts can be retained too. With all the new housing that is planned for Penicuik and surrounding areas, it’s so important these well used community sporting facilities are retained for current and future generations of active people within the area.

Last year, Midlothian Council said they were in the early stages of talks to construct “homes for the heroes” on the site. The status of these talks is now unknown, with the latest development plan stating solely “social housing” is to be constructed.

Campaigning by the tennis club has already commenced with a public meeting planned for 7:30pm on Wednesday 7 January in the Royal Hotel. The housing itself still faces a battle to make its way through planning. Not only must the land be allocated through the agreement of the development plan, but then a planning application must be approved by the planning committee. At both stages the public will be consulted, though in the case of the Craigiebield social housing development, a high number of objections does not guarantee an alteration or rejection of the submitted plans. The grassroots campaign will aim to echo the success of a similar group in the north of Penicuik, which persuaded the council’s planning committee to turn against their own commercial services arm and refuse permission for a new recycling centre.

An application for the site is imminent, with a planned October 2015 start date.

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