Dilapidated tennis courts in Fulham will be revamped to create a new 'centre of excellence' for the sport, with some residents allowed to play for free.
The 15 courts currently at Bishops Park host the vast majority of tennis bookings at public sites – some 70 per cent in 2008/09 – but have fallen into a state of disrepair, prompting fears for the welfare of players.
A report to Hammersmith and Fulham Council this week said the courts present heath and safety concerns due to uneven surfaces, overgrown tree roots and poor site security, and do not conform to Lawn Tennis Association standards for size and layout.
It reveals a £340,000 plan to refurbish the site to provide 12 new full-size adult courts and four junior courts, with some sections floodlit so the centre can open till 8pm in winter instead of having to close at 4pm.
Half the cash for the project will come from the council's parks budget and £150,000 will come from the Tennis Foundation charity, which will insist on a certain level of free tennis as part of the grant. Certain off-peak time slots are likely to be given over to free sessions.
Alex Lewis, community tennis development coordinator at the Tennis Foundation, said the project was part of a country-wide effort by the organisation to improve public facilities and encourage more people to take up the sport.
He said: "In some places the courts just aren't up to scratch and aren't safe to play on. We're providing a little bit of money so people are able to play on those courts.
"We're working with local facilities to produce a programme that offers fun, affordable tennis, and there has to be an element of free tennis at each of those sites.
"We want to be able to offer free tennis because we understand how difficult it can be for someone to dip into their pocket when maybe they have never played tennis before."
A further £20,000 will come from the exclusive Queen's Club in West Kensington.
It is thought the revamped facilities will bring the council extra £20,000 per year in booking fees.
Work will start in the summer and half the courts should be finished in time for the winter season, with the rest following in December.