Tennis club serves up a hit with planners despite green belt row

Controversial plans to expand a West Yorkshire tennis club within green belt land have won council officers’ backing despite strong opposition.

Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club wants planning permission to refurbish and extend its clubhouse to include improved gym facilities; build three extra external all-weather courts; extend the indoor tennis courts and create more car parking spaces.

The club also wants backing for a discretionary pedestrian route for the Dalesway Footpath and some work to Stourton Road footway.

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A petition containing 140 signatures of people against the scheme has been submitted to Bradford Council along with 62 letters of objection.

However 23 people have written to the local authority supporting the plans which have won the backing of Ilkley Parish Council and The British Lawn Tennis Association.

Members of Keighley and Shipley Area Planning Panel will be advised to grant planning permission when they meet to consider the latest plans for the expansion on Wednesday.

Critics have raised concerns about extra traffic on the A65 and local roads, pollution and pedestrians’ safety.

There are also fears about the plans’ effect on the wildlife and ecology of the surrounding area, an increased risk of flooding along the River Wharfe and further erosion of the Green Belt land next to the Dales Way.

Objectors claim pedestrian safety along the Dales Way will be “adversely affected”.

Supporters say that the development will secure the future and prevent the decline of the club – which dates back more than 100 years – and claim the revised plans take into account residents’ concerns.

They say the scheme will create jobs for the local area and that “car parking and access plans have been carefully thought through to minimise visual impact, environmental impact and to improve pedestrian safety”.

Supporters also claim the new walkway for the Dales Way footpath is a “great improvement”.

Ilkley Councillor Martin Smith said many of the issues have been resolved but the increase in traffic to and from the site remains a concern.

Coun Smith said: “The only major problem now seems to be the traffic issues; increasing traffic caused by the additional three artificial courts and the increase which will happen relative to the increased size of the gym and the two exercise rooms – this on a steep hill, Stourton Road, exiting onto the A65 (Skipton Road) is extremely worrying as at this point All Saints’ School is fairly adjacent and creates a huge traffic problem in the mornings and early afternoons.

“At critical times of the day the traffic through Ilkley is queued back approximately one mile on the Leeds Road and the Skipton Road.”

A report to be considered by the panel says that the club considers the building of indoor courts important to ensure first class facilities are available all year round.

The report says: “Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club is an important community facility, known nationally for its contribution to tennis through its tournaments and youth coaching scheme.

“Whilst the site is located within the defined green belt, the extensions to the building are not disproportionate, will have a minimal impact on openness and will support the ongoing viability of the club and its outdoor sporting activities.

“Improvements to Stourton Road and the public footpath along the internal access road, along with the submitted travel plan, will adequately reduce and mitigate the impact of the additional traffic generated by the expanded facilities.

“The development has been designed to cope with the regular flooding that the site experiences and on site mitigation and attenuation will ensure that it will not result in an increased risk of flooding elsewhere.”

A spokesman for Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club said it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.