Local residents have rekindled their opposition to Rye tennis club’s plan for a large structure housing three indoor tennis courts on Military Road.
Earlier this week, 14 objections, one general comment and two support comments could be seen on RDC’s planning portal after the project proposal was re-lodged.
Most of the opposition comes from Military Road residents, who point out the proposed site is subject to surface flooding, is located on a dangerous “blind bend” in the road and that the building itself will generate light pollution, noise and adversely affect local people’s amenity. The loss of a unique natural environment — home to diverse wildlife and plants — is also mentioned in objectors’ submissions.
Playden Parish Council has objected to the “large industrial appearance of the building”, which it says would be “prominent in views” from the East Guldeford Levels, the Rother river and its footpath, the A259, the rail line, Military Road and from neighbouring properties. PPC also indicates the tennis court site is next to the Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay RAMSAR and SSI sites of environmental importance.
Rye Conservation Society referred to the original proposal as “an industrial-scale building in a rural landscape, far larger than any agricultural buildings in the vicinity”, which would produce “a serious and detrimental effect on the landscape”. It had also pointed out that the site lies outside the current Rye development boundary (where strict rules apply — namely that development should only occur where a countryside location is necessary).
Although there may be general support for an indoor sports facility of this nature in the Rye area — possibly in a location like Rye Harbour Road— most of the opposition focuses on claims the Military Road site is inappropriate for a structure of this size and type.
All weather indoor courts will allow club to thrive and grow
The tennis club describes the building as “a simple agricultural style steel framed barn structure clad in local timber cladding and louvres, with high level glass panels”. Plans indicate the structure will be about 54m long by 38m wide, reaching 9m at the roof apex. There would be car parking for 23 vehicles.
Rye Lawn Tennis & Squash Club originally applied for outline planning permission in 2016 but RDC’s planning team initially recommended refusal to the council’s Planning Committee due to the building’s “significant intrusive impact”, road/traffic issues, environmental considerations and surface water flood risk. However, by August 2019 outline permission was granted subject to various conditions and the subsequent approval of “reserved matters”.
The current application for outline planning permission was lodged last August, possibly because the earlier permission had expired.
At present, the club’s eight grass courts are only available between May and September, while there are also three all-weather courts. However, for various reasons the club is resisting the idea of converting its grass courts to all-weather use.
Rye tennis club believes the indoor court building, by offering year-round play, will attract greater participation in the sport, among adults and especially younger people. It will also enhance the long-term viability of the club. Although the club suggests the covered courts could be used by local schools, plus “community and non-member groups”, it seems too early to speculate what fee structure would be offered. At present, full adult club membership costs £463 a year (£378 tennis only) but under-18s only pay £76. Adult non-members can now play tennis for £10 each on up to four occasions a year, without joining the club.
The club admits in a submission that “to thrive and flourish, our club needs to change” and that without change it will undergo a “slow demise”.
A number of local people have suggested that if the covered court structure receives the green light, they would like to see access to the courts publicly available at a much lower price and without the need for costly membership.
Objectors cite problems with light pollution and flooding risks
Light pollution represents another important planning consideration. Sussex Police has told the planning authority that it believes a “constant level of illumination” would be needed to protect the covered tennis courts’ structure. It says shrubs around the proposed building should be less than 1m high and trees lower than 2m to allow for a “capable guardian” to observe the site. The county landscape architect insists a 5m-wide belt of mixed native tree and shrubs would be needed on the north and east sides, not the simple hedge suggested in the proponent’s design and access statement.
Opponents have claimed the illuminated building would be visible at night from a long distance. They also argue that a consultants’ flood risk assessment dates from 2015, while climate change risks have worsened since that date. The consultants admitted that surface water flooding was a threat but said river flooding would only occur if river defences failed and predicted a 1-in-200-year likelihood of this event.
Neither the Environment Agency nor National Highways offered objections to the proposal.
Further details of the planning application are available on the Rother District Council website under planning application RR/2022/1611/P.
Image Credits: Doug Parry , Rye Lawn Tennis Club .