Local residents in the Lower Penarth area are becoming increasingly concerned about the fate of a major sporting facility in the town which is – literally – being allowed to run to seed by the “charity” Fields in Trust .
The concerns raised are about the six hard-surface tennis courts at Penarth Athletic Fields which are lying un-maintained and idle with weeds and vegetation now growing through cracks in the playing surfaces.
One resident who has lived near the tennis courts for 20 years says she can’t recall any maintenance being carried out on the tennis courts in all that time.
The tennis courts – which are immediately adjacent to the rugby and cricket pitches at Penarth Athletic field and are separated from them only by a hedge and mesh fencing – are now so dilapidated it is likely to cost a substantial sum to resurface them for public use – if indeed they ever are.
The current situation dates back to decisions made by the last Labour administration in the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
Without any public consultation, legal control of the entire Penarth Athletic Field – including the tennis courts was transferred by the council to the “charity” Fields in Trust (formerly the National Playing Fields Association) – an organisation which has since done nothing whatever to reinstate the tennis facilities at the Athletic Ground.
The “management” of the Athletic Field was delegated by “Fields in Trust” to the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
Fields in Trust boasts on its website that Penarth Athletic Field has “tennis courts along the south-eastern boundary of the playing fields” – but clearly no one from “Fields in Trust” has ever visited the courts or bothered to take any action with regard to their progressive deterioration.
Fields in Trust is the same organisation which – without any public consultation – assumed control of Penarth’s Alexandra Park. This too was a move agreed by the then Labour-controlled Vale of Glamorgan Council. Under the scheme the Vale Council entered into a so-called “Deed of Dedication” to provide what is described as “Centenary Field” status to Alexandra Park.
The legal transfer of these properties to the control of Fields in Trust meant that two prime sites – the Athletic Ground and Alexandra Park – both of which had been originally given to the people of Penarth by the Earl of Plymouth – are now no longer under local control .
Fields in Trust, which has no elected representatives from Penarth on its board, promised that its scheme would assist it in “leveraging funding from other partners” – in effect suggesting that it would be able to tap-into government grants funded by taxpayer’s money – but so far there is no evidence of any funding at all being forthcoming for Penarth.
At the time of the deal, the Labour Vale Council claimed that the acquisition would “benefit local residents and park users“, improve their “quality of life” and “address health inequalities”.
Fields in Trust – says in its published “guidelines” that its sites should be “maintained safely and to the highest possible condition”. Local residents say that the current dilapidated state of the six tennis courts makes that lofty aim ring somewhat hollow.
The roll call of the great and the good who are involved in Fields in Trust ironically includes tennis players Roger Federer and Tim Henman OBE. The charity’s patron is the Queen and the president is Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge .