A hotel in Falmouth hiked up the price of publicly-owned tennis courts despite suggesting it would lower them.

Resident Paul Hills submitted a freedom of information request revealing that St Michaels Hotel told Cornwall Council in 2012 it saw "no reason to charge more than the current prices" of £3.50 per court, going on to say it may even reduce the price.

This was stated in a document in which the hotel was presenting its case for why it should be allowed to take over the management of the facilities. 

Falmouth Packet:

The hotel won the bid for the 15-year lease, one of the terms of which was to keep prices "comparable" to nearby facilities.

It now costs £12 to hire a court for non-members, whilst hotel guests can play for free.

In comparison, Truro's Boscawen Park courts cost £6 per hour for singles, half the price of Falmouth's.

Mr Hills contacted the Packet after reading last week's article about St Michaels' unsuccessful attempt to build a new coaching centre at the site, in which a spokesperson was quoted as saying that the courts are underutilised.

Falmouth Packet:

He says that the courts have been poorly maintained since the hotel took over despite the increase in price, which is why they are not as popular as they used to be.

He said: "We are paying by far the most money and Falmouth's are the worst in Cornwall."

When the Packet visited the courts, one was covered in fallen leaves, branches and algae.

Mr Hills said: "That particular court is rarely usable. Since 2012 that court has been in a bad way.

Falmouth Packet:

"In the years before, that was the court that everyone wanted to play on because it was fully enclosed. Every time we walked past it you used to see people playing on it. Now it's more or less out of action."

The Packet contacted Cornwall Council about the matter, prompting them to review the hotel's prices.

A council spokesperson said: "The lease requires them to make at least one court available at all times for public hire at a charging rate reasonably comparable to other public available tennis court facilities in the locality. The charging will be reviewed to ensure it remains reasonably comparable with other local facilities.

"We are grateful that the matter has been raised and will address it with the hotel."

Falmouth Packet:

In response, a spokesperson for St Michaels Hotel argued that prices for members of the public were of "great value".

They released the following statement: "As the leaseholder, St Michaels Resort is responsible for all upkeep and maintenance of the Gyllnyvase courts and is pleased to provide access to them to the general public at great value.

"They are some of the only courts in the Falmouth area available for private hire and are priced very competitively, benefitting further from an unrivalled seafront location.

Falmouth Packet:

"The courts had been underutilised for a number of years, and in 2019 a drive was made to bring them up to date, with the intention of installing a small clubhouse to provide shelter, a toilet and space for parents to watch their children play.

"This facility is required to make junior tennis on the courts a viable practice, in turn making the courts more appealing to the local community and providing a much need physical activity space for Falmouth’s younger generation ... Annual tennis memberships are available, including a junior membership, offering fantastic value from £120 a year for adults and £50 for children, which provide unlimited court use.

"Hotel guests are able to use the courts on a complimentary basis as the maintenance cost involved is absorbed into their room rate. Similarly, St Michaels Health Club members enjoy a reduced fee as they pay for court hire on top of their monthly membership.

"While the courts were very well maintained throughout 2019 in anticipation of the clubhouse, without it the courts remained underutilised.

Falmouth Packet:

"We are working with the council to find the best way forward and hope to make the courts a community treasure once again in 2020.

"If we are able to get the clubhouse up and running, and with the LTA coach in place, we will then begin providing free community tennis sessions, bringing the health and social benefits of tennis to local residents."