A ROW over who should foot the bill for Ash Tennis Club may have been resolved

after councillors and the club agreed to negotiate.

A week ago the club, at Coronation Gardens, Ash Hill Road, faced the threat of eviction after the parish council refused to renew its lease because it claimed it cost parishioners too much.

The council then applied for a legal agreement to take over the grounds but the club returned by challenging them.

As both awaited the outcome from the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, the teams recently got together to start discussions.

Under the old lease the contract was due to be automatically renewed in March for 14 years.

Club chairman Tony Myers said the parish council had gone back on itself since talks broke down in January.

“They have completely changed their attitude. It’s very encouraging for both sides. We were still faced with the threat of eviction but in the last 24 hours we have made significant progress.”

He said proposals for changing the conditions of the lease were made so that the club met more of the repair costs.

“We were paying about £300 rent a year and they

were paying 50% of the maintenance. In January they proposed putting it up to £1,000 to generate more income for the council. Now they have stepped away from this and are talking about a cost-neutral agreement.”

He said he was delighted with the progress made but said nothing was final until it was agreed in writing.

Nigel Manning, chairman of Ash Parish Council, said the old contract was too biased towards the club’s interests. He said the meeting had paved the way for the basis terms of a draft contract.

“We basically wanted to take the burden of looking after a private tennis club off the parishioners.

There will be a change in maintenance and rental arrangements. Now the courts will be available for the community and the club has greater security.”

He said threatening the club with a legal agreement would only create more bad feeling.

“I think they felt we were trying to get rid of them. All we want is a reasonable agreement.”

Both sides are hopeful of a breakthrough. Despite the good will, both said they would not detract their submissions with the deputy Prime Minister in case the talks fell through.

Ash Tennis Club is a private club with three courts and a clubhouse. In the meantime, work to transform the public court adjoining it into a skateboard park has started and is due for completion in May.

The club has always maintained the loss of a tennis court would be a loss to the community.

Mr Myers said the noise and the increased possibility of vandalism would have a damaging impact on the club.