WIRRAL Council is to accept a grant worth hundreds of thousands of pounds from tennis’ governing body to upgrade its courts weeks after the organisation pledged to protect the sport’s long term future.

Last month, it had been anticipated the local authority would sign off on proposals to permanently close Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre (WTSC) in Birkenhead in a bid to save the council much needed cash. However, the council’s tennis provision was given a stay of execution after the sport’s governing body, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), agreed to underwrite funding for the service and work with Wirral Council to appoint an operator to exclusively manage the six indoor courts and three outdoor courts.

Now, the LTA is providing Wirral Council with a capital grant funding pot of £300,000 for tennis court improvement works across Wirral, including operating models for the future management and maintenance of the courts, subject to councillors’ approval next week. A consultation was launched on the future of WTSC to which the LTA expressed concern at the proposed closure of three out of the six indoor tennis courts at the site. As a result, the governing body devised a package that will both deliver the required level of saving at the site together with a wider package of investment funding on Wirral both at WTSC and in outdoor courts across the borough.

A report to the council’s environment, climate emergency and transport committee has outlined how the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the LTA announced a funding pot of £28million that to bring public park tennis courts in very poor or unplayable condition back into life for the benefit of the community. Of this total sum, grant funding of £300k is being made available to Wirral Council to improve park courts across the borough.

The LTA capital investment will be used to install a gate entry system at 12 identified sites, with nine undergoing court upgrade work. The full project must be completed by April 2024.

Data from the online club booking system has found 6,918 court hours have been booked in the last 12 months, across 12 sites and 36 tennis courts. Over the last decade, Wirral Council has invested £256,000 in upgrading the park tennis courts with more than £46,000 spent on maintenance alone since 2017.

Around £9,000 a year is spent on maintenance and repair and all major court refurbishment works are funded from the council’s capital programme and Section 106 funding. The report added most park tennis courts are “not suitable for high quality tennis play and with continued budget pressures the long-term future of many of the park tennis courts is at risk.”

It added: “Projected income figures for the preferred operating model would see the Parks Tennis Courts becoming financially sustainable through the proposed income generation options through a local tennis operator. No longer relying on council revenue funding of approximately £9,300 per year.”

The council will debate the decision next Thursday at Wallasey Town Hall.