Darley tennis club. Five years ago, a local newspaper called Old Trafford News asked me to investigate a dispute brewing at Darley tennis club on the border between Old Trafford and Chorlton. At the weekend, I decided to check out what’s happened since 2008. I’m glad I did.
It turns out tennis is no longer played at the Darley and, in April 2013, developer Branley Homes submitted plans to build “14 new residential dwellings” on the land – eight four-bedroom semi-detached properties, two three-bedroom semi-detached properties and four three-bedroom terraced properties. Trafford Council hasn’t yet confirmed when the proposals will go before the planning committee but it could be as early as Thursday, 11 July 2013.
For more info, check out the Darley planning application lodged with Trafford Council (comments can be submitted until Thursday, 20 June 2013), as well as the Darley Tennis and Social Club and the Save Our Darley Open Space sites.
Now the Old Trafford News website has changed a lot down the years and archived stories seem to have disappeared completely. So what follows is the original article I wrote in 2008, which explores the events leading up to the Darley dispute, along with photos I’ve just taken showing the (rapidly deteriorating) site as it stands today:
Darley tennis club faces match point
(first published in autumn 2008)
A tennis club has issued a plea for help after learning of a controversial plan to sell its courts to property developers.
Darley Lawn Tennis and Social Club, which has played on the Wood Road North site in Old Trafford for almost 90 years, was asked to leave last year by the landowners, the Carlton Lawn Tennis Company Ltd (CLTCL). In September 2007, the CLTCL board of directors voted 7-6 to invite outside bids for the site rather than renew the Darley’s lease in 2010.
It means local residents could soon lose the only Lawn Tennis Association-affiliated club in Old Trafford. The CLTCL was established in 1921 with the stated goal of supporting tennis in the area. According to a mission statement drawn up at the time, entitled the Memorandum and Articles of Association, the private company was formed to ‘acquire lands, buildings and premises in or near the City of Manchester for use as a ground for lawn tennis’.
Jac Murray, Darley’s acting treasurer, argues that the board’s decision to sell contravenes the spirit of this document. She said: “We feel very strongly that it goes against the Memorandum and Articles. It is all about protecting the land for playing tennis. But legally that is not enough.” The current CLTCL board is made up of 13 directors. Before they can accept an invitation to sit on the board, each member pays a nominal £1 fee to buy a 1/13th share in the company and its assets.
One director, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed that every shareholder stood to profit from selling the land if the company was subsequently wound up. He said: “The articles state that on liquidation, the net assets will be shared equally by the shareholders. That is the legal situation and there is nothing hidden about that.”
The 0.9-acre site is likely to be worth a considerable sum of money. A detached house on Ruskin Road, which intersects Wood Road North, sold last month for £233,600, according to UpMyStreet. Meanwhile, three and four-bedroom apartments on neighbouring streets have asking prices of between £192,500 and £275,000.
The director added: “It is an acre of prime land. You could build a number of houses on that site.”
However, Graham Thomas, a CLTCL director who voted in favour of the sale, said some members of the Darley tennis club failed to appreciate that the facilities had become unusable. He said: “They are trying to make a stand on the existing site but it is totally not viable. To make it viable, they would need to knock the existing facilities down. The site is virtually derelict, one of the courts is practically a jungle and the clubhouse is derelict too.”
In March 2008, a delegation of members from the Darley were invited by the CLTCL on a tour of tennis facilities at Longford Park, Stretford with a view to moving permanently. This proposal was rejected by a majority of Darley’s 50 members in April 2008 despite a CLTCL offer to provide financial support to help the club bed in.
Mr Thomas described Longford Park as a “fantastic facility”. He added: “I am a tennis player myself. I am 65 years old but I would have taken it up again at Longford Park. We are not ogres. We would like to aid and promote tennis on the Darley’s site but that has not proved possible.”
It is unclear what the future holds for the Darley and the CLTCL. Although members from both organisations predict that the Darley will continue to play tennis at the Wood Road North site until the end of the lease in September 2010, there is no consensus on what will happen after that date.
In the meantime, local residents are urged to take advantage of the facilities while they still can. Jac Murray, Acting Treasurer of the Darley, called on the local community to come forward and help the club.
She said: “It is absolutely scandalous that a handful of people are trying to close the club. We will be having a proper meeting of all the members soon. But in the meantime we would like to hear from anyone who could help.”