THE saga over the future of the Douglas Park tennis courts took a dramatic twist in the council chamber during a crunch vote.
As reported last week, an ambitious £200,000 Lawn Tennis Association-funded plan to create seven floodlit astroturf tennis courts was recommended for approval by North Ayrshire Council officers.
However, Councilor Alan Hill, of the ruling SNP administration, intervened with an alternative plan to instead create just three and give the rest of the site up for a community garden.
He told the council meeting that a community garden with raised beds and a polytunnel would bring a string of benefits to the people of Largs – and elected members agreed.
He said: “During lockdown, the Douglas Park group was formed and they have done and continue to do amazing work in restoring the area.
“An idea was put forward to develop a community garden along similar lines to the successful one in Fairlie.
“The idea has been backed by 132 people who attended public consultations, only 15 votes behind the tennis club proposal.
“The community garden project also has an online petition with 400 signatures and they also have letters of support of Largs Foodbank, the Church of Nazarene, Largs Academy’s Growing and Learning Group, Dementia Friendly, St Mary’s Primary Growers Group and Douglas Park Nursery.
“I would like to see both projects go ahead to give best return for people in the Largs area.”
Conservative councilor Tom Marshall tabled an amendment calling for the original recommendation to be rubber-stamped.
He said: “Myself and my colleague Todd Ferguson have been very keen to support Largs Tennis Club which has a long history at Douglas Park.
“They have funding in place to renovate the courts and say they need the seven to make it cost effective. This committee is going to turn down a £200,000 of investment into Largs if it doesn’t get on board.
“Largs Tennis Club have always wanted to come back to Douglas Park but didn’t have the funding in place – until now.”
Independent councilor Ian Murdoch put forward an amendment for Largs Tennis Club to get four courts and the community garden three, but it was dropped after getting no support.
Cllr Eleanor Collier said she was backing her SNP colleague.
She added: “I am involved in the environmental and community groups in West Kilbride and Largs desperately needs a community garden for healthy eating, wellness and mental health benefits.”
Councilor Hill added: “Largs Tennis Club has been thriving and their membership has increased significantly over lockdown. The club previously used the park but has prospered since relocating to Inverclyde Sports Centre, which offers four floodlit tennis courts with al long carside park.
“If officers’ recommendations go ahead, there would be 11 courts in total in Largs, which for the life of me I can’t see how there would be that level of demand.”
Councilor Hill’s motion for the shared space was carried by 20 votes with the amendment receiving 10, with two abstaining.