Hembsy tennis court plans rejected

A FAMILY are aiming to serve up a new scheme for an outdoor court in the garden of their Hemsby home.

The Barnes family in Hall Road are looking for a Plan C after slugging it out over the net with planners over several previous schemes.

The proposed court is to provide a year-round training facility for Norfolk number one Katherine Barnes, who is widely tipped as a tennis star of the future.

But on Tuesday night, members of Great Yarmouth Borough Council members took a dim view of the floodlighting element of the scheme and ruled it out of court.

This week her father, John Barnes, said having the �35,000 outdoor court close to their Grade II listed farmhouse would have helped nine-year-old Katherine to reach her full potential.

There were three letters of objection from neighbours raising a number of concerns including that the proposed court was too close to homes and that light from four 6.7m columns would impact on their properties and gardens.

The council’s own environmental health department had raised no objections and the planning officer said the court would have little impact on listed buildings nearby.

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At the meeting, some councillors said they could see no problem with the scheme, particularly if it was moved to another part of the garden away from neighbours and a 9pm curfew introduced.

Katherine was recognised as a natural player the first time she picked up a racquet at a summer school in Acle just over two years ago.

Since then she has made remarkable progress helped by intensive training at Easton College to hone her skills, and her parents John and Karen Barnes, both retired, say they are amazed by what she has achieved so quickly. However, to progresss she will have to take her training to another level – the girls who do well often having access to a practice court at home.

Originally the family were working with planners to achieve a �100,000 indoor court on the sheltered spot framed by tall trees – a natural contender for the outside court too, and the best place for it, they say.

Mr Barnes said the family including sister Rachael, 13, were all committed to Katherine’s tennis career, spurred on by the enthusiastic cheering of national coaches who said she was among the best they had seen.

At the moment she faces a three-hour round trip to Easton College for one hour’s tennis, and sometimes struggles to find court time anywhere.

“A good sports person brings recognition for the area and the area in turn feels proud of them.

That is especially true in Great Yarmouth because it is quite a poor area, inspiring young people to achieve,” Mr Barnes said.

Katherine is currently beating older boys to lift a raft of tournament trophies. Her success has seen her “passported” to national competitions where she came fourth out of the top 16 girls in the country despite being unable to finish because of injury.

Mrs Barnes added they had not fallen out with their neighbours and respected their right to comment. After the meeting Mr Barnes said he was disappointed with the decision but was poised to go ahead with a smaller scheme at the front of the house where a walled garden provided a natural enclosure.

Snatched sessions at a home-court, even just half an a hour a week, could make a massive difference to her game he added.