We received an email telling us of the plight of a real tennis court in Troon, which although currently not in use, was home to an active club in the '80s. The background of the case was given to us as follows:

  1. The planning application is in respect of Sun Court Nursing Home, 19 Crosbie Road, Road, Troon. The applicant is Sun Court Limited, in the person of its Managing Director Mr. Richard Johnstone.
  2. Sun Court Ltd. applied in 2004 for listed building consent to demolish the real tennis court (and build more nursing home bedrooms in its place). It also applied for planning consent to build 24 sheltered housing units in the garden of the nursing home — these do not, or should not, affect the real tennis court.
  3. The 2004 listed building application was due to be considered by the Planning Committee on 6 July 2004. However, on reading the Planning Department's report recommending unequivocally — that the application be refused on planning grounds, Sun Court Ltd. asked that it be removed from the Committee's agenda. The application was not withdrawn, but left pending while the applicant sought further arguments to support the case for demolition.
  4. Sun Court Ltd. then approached the T&RA, hoping that the game's UK governing body would agree that it was not viable to restore the court to play. But the T&RA's Court Development Consultant, together with a group of local real tennis enthusiasts which I have been leading, visited the court and concluded that in principle it would be perfectly viable to restore it and operate it as a club. Our group offered to work with Sun Court Ltd. to carry out a full survey of the building, provide/raise the necessary finance for restoration, and operate the court as a members' club.
  5. Our group pointed out repeatedly to Mr Johnstone that this would be very advantageous to him, since it would relieve him of the obligation to meet the substantial cost of repairing and maintaining his listed building. We asked for his agreement in advance to accept the findings of our own full survey, and to allow us to proceed with restoration work based on these findings. However, despite initially describing our offer as "highly generous", he has since insisted (a) that we accept his own advisers' estimates of the restoration costs (which we consider to be inflated), and (b) that every individual member of our group must give him a personal financial guarantee for the total amount of these restoration costs plus professional fees before we can begin the restoration work. He has also said that Sun Court Ltd. can make no financial contribution at all to the restoration. These conditions are of course absurd and unacceptable.
  6. In other words, the applicant has no interest in seeing his listed building restored. His sole aim is demolition. Since 2004 the court has of course deteriorated physically, due to its deliberate neglect by the applicant.
  7. SAC received 250 letters of objection to the original listed building application in 2004. While these objections are still valid, in 2007 there is even less reason than in 2004 to allow the court to be demolished — since a group of real tennis enthusiasts working with the encouragement of the T&RA has now offered to restore and operate the court at little expense to the owner.
  8. As a listed building, the Troon court is a an excellent example of Edwardian real tennis court construction. It was built by the renowned Joseph Bickley in 1905. It was operated very successfully by previous owners of Sun Court in the 1970–80s, with a large membership, high court usage, and a very active resident professional.
  9. Troon is the only standard real tennis court in Scotland (the court at Falkland Palace is a precious historic building, but differs in many ways from a standard court). Sun Court is thus a unique part of Scotland's architectural and sporting heritage.
  10. Assuming acceptable restoration costs, there is every reason to suppose that the court could be operated profitably. Real tennis clubs throughout the UK (also in the US, Australia and France) are attracting increasing levels of membership and court usage, as the game becomes more and more popular. The Troon court already had a history of success until closed following a change of ownership in 1990. Since then, the finances of real tennis as a sport have continued to improve enormously.
  11. There is therefore absolutely no reason to allow the present owner to demolish the court and build commercial nursing home facilities in its place. It is a listed building which should be used for its sole purpose — the playing of real tennis.

We sent our letter to the relevant planning authorities:

RE: Planning application in respect of Sun Court Nursing Home, 19 Crosbie Road, Troon.

I am writing on behalf of the Irish Real Tennis Association in connection with the above planning application, which we understand is due to be considered shortly by South Ayrshire Council. We wish to place on record our strong objection to the proposed destruction of the Real Tennis court.

For the past eight years the Irish Real Tennis Association have been campaigning to persuade the Irish state to restore the Real Tennis court in Dublin, given to the state in 1939 with the intention that it be used for Real Tennis. This wish was regrettably not followed, and so our activities have been divided between lobbying at government level, and raising public awareness of the sport. In this latter regard, we are part of a recent international resurgence of interest in the sport, and have lead many trips to the UK to play, to introduce new players to the game, and to hold our Irish Championships. Our membership now numbers nearly 200, and is growing as more Irish people discover Real Tennis.

In the context of this international Real Tennis revival, we urge the Council to deny permission to demolish what we understand to be the only standard Real Tennis court in Scotland. The number of thriving clubs around the world, including some founded recently, provides ample evidence that Troon Real Tennis court could be viably operated for its intended purpose — the playing of the sport of Real Tennis. Indeed we understand that Troon was a successful club in the '80s. We urge the Council to allow the Troon Real Tennis court's purpose to be fulfilled, and to deny the planning application.

Our committee members would be delighted to answer any questions you may have; please find contact details below.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Bolton, for the IRTA.