Report by: Head of Cultural Strategy, Partnerships & Commissioning

  • This report provides information on the purpose, the history and current position regarding the proposal to award a management contract in regard to tennis courts located on Chiswick Back Common.
  • The initial work on this project commenced in February 1995 and is currently on going.
  • Local Ward Councillors have expressed theirs and the local community's frustrations at the delay in bringing this project to a satisfactory conclusion.
  • Since June 2000 there have been 4 written reports to CAC Monitoring regarding the proposal.
  • The Executive are due to consider the letting of the management contract to Community Tennis Services.

1.1 That Members note this report and the lessons learnt from the review.

1.2 That Members endorse the proposal to put in place new and additional arrangements for the effective management for small projects and to consider further measures to enhance the monitoring procedures.

2.1 The existing tennis courts at Chiswick Back Common (also known as Chiswick Common) had become unsuitable for use, with little investment into the courts having taken place. They were at that time effectively not fit for use and needed considerable capital investment to bring them into use. As a result, it was agreed that we should seek an investment partner who would provide capital funding in exchange for the right to provide a range of professional tennis coaching. TFC Leisure Limited (TFC) was selected as the Council's preferred partner, following advertisement of the opportunity to improve tennis facilities within the Borough.
2.2 Chiswick Back Common is registered as Common Land under the Commons Registration Act 1965. However, at that time officers were not aware of this fact and it was later to cause a significant delay in this process. Under the Ministry of Housing and Local Government Provisional Order Confirmation (Greater London Parks and Open Spaces) Act 1967, the Council may deal with such land to provide facilities to the public or grant any person the right to do so. However,the Council may not grant a Lease or other legal interest in the land and this,therefore, governs the form of any legal documentation entered into.

2.3 In addition, if any building or other structure (such as new floodlights or fences) is to be erected on common land under Section 12 of the 1967 Act, the Secretary of State's consent is required. As part of this procedure, it is necessary to advertise the proposals and for the Secretary to consider any objections
3.1 TFC has successfully operated a similar facility at Rocks Lane, Barnes, since 1992, on Common Land held by Richmond Council. This facility comprises 6 all-weather floodlit courts, 4 hard courts, clubhouse (constructed by the Council) and changing facilities housed in former public conveniences. Richmond Council confirms that TFC was originally given a 10-year agreement with no Use Fee payable in return for the capital investment being made of some f100,000. This
agreement has recently been extended for a further 13 years in return for the upgrading of the 4 hard courts to all-weather courts and a new children's play area to reflect the further investment of circa f200,000.

3.2 TFC will be granted planning permission for works to the existing courts at Chiswick Back Common on completion of Section 106 Agreement. The details of the proposed development are:-
o The construction of 3 tennis courts and upgrading and floodlighting to the existing tennis courts, renovation of existing brick building and erection of building housing temporary changing rooms in accordance with the approved plans and specifications, within an agreed timescale (Phase 1).
o Alterations to tennis courts and floodlighting, erection of tennis centre building and creation of delivery access point (Phase 2).

4.1 The progress of this project has taken from 1995 and is currently ongoing. A chronological list of action and the time those actions took are set out below. A critique of the circumstances as to why it has taken this amount of time has revealed the following.
4.2 The project, whilst being recognised as being important to the local community, represented a small scale development involving an external company and therefore, in the context of competing demands at the time, failed to have the necessary resource or focus within the Council and subsequently CIP.
4.3 It is evident that working across departments and external agencies to achieve a project is not easy and considerable focus is necessary to provide the required level of co-ordination and maintain a level momentum.
4.4 Within the then Leisure Services Department and subsequently CIP, there was no one officer assigned to lead the project and take responsibility to deliver the scheme. This in part was due to it being located in a park and at the same time considered a capital development. This lack of clarity has in part continued, which compounded the delays, some of which may not have be avoidable but
resulted in little progress and infrequent reports to the Area Committee.
4.5 Considerable time delays were encountered due to the (late) realisation that the land was in fact common land and therefore the lease information that had been prepared was not relevant.
4.6 The list of events set out below does confirm the periods of several months between actions and reflects that it was not given the highest priority by all the departments and agencies involved.

5.1 The most significant factor in this review was a failure to assign the responsibility for ensuring this project was efficiently delivered. As a result, there was no clear
project management and resulting responsibility and thereby accountability. Whilst there is always an issue of resource allocation and competing demands for officer time, this is a constant factor and has to form part of the constraints to be taken into account.

5.2 Clearly the development of the new arrangements for the governance of the Council through the Executive and establishment of Area Committees has strengthened the role of Members and their link to specific projects. The introduction of a Lead Member is seen to further strengthen the effective management and communications necessary to keep both Members and the community informed of progress on such schemes.

5.3 For the future, there a number of improvements which have already been implemented to ensure this situation does not repeat itself. These are: -
o At the outset of any project/partnership a project plan is to be established
which will indicates the timescale including a completion date, funding and
any risk factors to be considered.
o The Authority will through the client officer ensure regular update reports
are prepared for the Area Committee /Lead Member and Executive as
o The dates for the reports and consultation will be built into the project
planning process.
o A Lead Member will be sought to sponsor the project where the scale of the project is considered necessary.
o This project plan will include commitments and timetable for responses from any third party so as to coordinate the work programme, thereby reducing unnecessary delays.

(Section 6 is a timetable of the events that happened between 1995 and the present day)

7.1 TFC sought to obtain Planning Permission for the proposed development before entering into detailed negotiations with the Council in 1999. The negotiations have been protracted due to the need to create an extended Management Agreement rather than a Lease.

7.2 Before any agreement can be completed, it will be necessary to obtain Ministerial Consent for the erection of floodlights to the existing 7 courts, the construction of 3 new courts and for the erection of a building on Common Land. Confirmation from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners that they have no interest in the land will also be sought.

Back to main item