This project was successful in a grant application to the Community Ownership Fund, matched by contributions from Witney Town Council and ourselves. The proposal has now progressed to the planning application stage and is currently under consideration by West Oxfordshire District Council’s planning department.

We are looking forward to creating a more efficient community café with new kitchen and increased seating, better public access toilets, indoor activity space, redesigned skate park, padel tennis courts and a mix of other outdoor recreational facilities.

Download our consultation findings and FAQs.

May 2024 update

Work onsite has begun. The Coffee Shed and old toilet block have both been demolished and the site has been cleared ready for further works to commence. Since the demolition, we have faced a few challenges relating to the drainage scheme with associated groundworks; balancing the competing priorities of water attenuation (to meet planning conditions), stabilised groundworks (to meet additional structural engineering requirements) and cost control (to ensure project delivery).

Finding solutions to resolve these challenges has been of paramount importance so that we can progress more rapidly as we re-mobilise onsite. We expect works to re-start in June with a target project completion in November.

In the meantime:

-         We have enjoyed seeing football continue at The Leys without disruption

-         We have provided maintenance of the temporary pathway for the safety of park users

-         The splash park is opening as we hoped, following our installation of the new drainage pipes

-         We have been able to get to know the users of the new wheeled sports park and are looking forward to when we can welcome them to into the hub

While this pause is disappointing, we are committed to delivering a project that benefits The Leys and its surrounding, welcoming people of all ages for many years to come. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to everyone who continues to support us by playing tennis or mini golf and buying refreshments from the temporary café. Our thanks also go to the Witney Town Council staff team and Councillors for their continued assistance.

Jeff Hunter

CEO, Courtside Hubs CIC

April 2024 update

23/02731/FUL The Leys community hub: Work has commenced, April 2024

We are thrilled to announce that construction work to transform The Coffee Shed into a more efficient community café and multi-activity hub has commenced.

We have appointed local company NJF Construction to undertake the project. We are confident that renovations at The Leys are in safe hands with NJF, whose portfolio includes the likes of the National Trust and Bicester Village, and that they will take every precaution to minimise disruption to the park during construction.

During the build, park facilities – including the adventure playground and mini golf – will be open as usual, with both hot and cold drinks, and light bites still on offer at The Leys served from a new container café situated by the mini golf, manned by the friendly and familiar Coffee Shed team.

Whilst the first stages of our build get underway, including the moving of the current depot, work on the newly redesigned wheeled sports park, managed by Witney Town Council, has concluded! We’re looking forward to these exciting new facilities helping us to realise our vision of bringing people together and encouraging them to be active, serving as a base for connecting the community and encouraging physical and social well-being, while protecting The Leys as a place of rest and recreation for future generations.

Jeff Hunter

CEO, Courtside Hubs CIC

January 2024 update

23/02731/FUL The Leys community hub planning applicaDon: Planning permission granted

We are delighted to announce that planning permission has been unanimously granted for the development of our award-winning café at The Leys Recreation Ground into a multi-activity hub for the community. Having addressed community concerns, we are aiming to satisfy the relevant planning conditions and confirm the appointment of a local construction company to commence works in the coming weeks.

Following public consultation designs were adapted in response to the feedback received, including parking and pedestrian improvements, reduced traffic flow and the addition of shuffleboard as an inter-generational activity. These amendments will increase accessibility and promote safety for families, dog walkers, older residents and other park users.

The approved plans for the development showcase a more efficient community café with new kitchen and increased seating, beYer public access toilets and changing rooms, indoor activity space, redesigned skatepark, 4 full-size tennis courts, mini tennis courts, covered padel courts and a mix of other outdoor recreational facilities including netball, 3x3 basketball and table tennis. New LED court lighting will encourage year-round play. These developments won’t only improve community facilities: with the help of park landscaping improvements, our plans will achieve a biodiversity net gain of 56% at The Leys.

Accessibility to the hub will also be improved with a new wider path being created to make it easier and safer for those on mobility scooters and in wheelchairs to access and enjoy the park facilities. Additional disabled parking spaces are being installed along with designated parking for mobility scooters and bicycles. To further ensure safety of users in the park, the service lane leading to the hub will exclusively be used by authorised vehicles in the form of staff and delivery vehicles, and those accessing the additional disabled parking spaces.

Community requests also expressed a desire for changing facilities at The Leys. In response to this, we have included new changing facilities in our updated, and now approved, plans. These will be accessible year-round for the sports teams playing at The Leys.

We, as Courtside, would like to take this opportunity to extend a thank you to everyone who helped in shaping these plans and aided in gecng approval by completing surveys, aYending public consultations, and providing support to the planning application; your feedback and encouragement has been invaluable.

During the build, the park and many of its facilities will be open as usual, with hot drinks and light bites still on offer at The Leys served from a new converted horsebox, manned by the friendly and familiar Coffee Shed team.

We are enthusiastic about the imminent commencement of renovations and confident that once all is complete, The Leys will be the place to go for a range of social and physical activities with a welcoming community feel. The goal is to create a home away from home for local people and a destination day out for others, to achieve even more social impact in Witney and across West Oxfordshire.

Jeff Hunter

CEO, Courtside Hubs CIC

December 2023 update

23/02731/FUL The Leys community hub planning application: Response to local feedback

This is a brief, important update to our proposals for The Leys in response to helpful feedback from local residents, Councillors and statutory consultees. It follows from our extensive public consultation, drop-in events and stakeholder meetings which have taken place since October 2ti22 (and can be viewed on our website).

The context for our planning application to the planning authority, West Oxfordshire District Council, is multi-faceted, with 3 primary goals at the heart:

  1. To enhance recreational facilities on The Leys for future generations, protecting the park’s heritage in the process.
  2. To do so in a way that is economically sustainable, given increasing pressure on public finances and Councils’ competing priorities for investment.
  3. To bring people together and encourage them to be active through a well-designed place, staffed by great people and offering an accessible programme of activities.

Objections to our proposals – which we view as constructive criticism – and our considered response are summarised below under 3 headings.

Parking & traffic/pedestrian management

The primary area of concern for local residents is increased traffic down the service lane leading to the current maintenance depot in the park. There has, understandably, been a challenge from local neighbours about a proposed public access car park, which is a direct result of the lack of enforcement of any restrictions on existing parking on The Leys.

We have tried, and failed, for 8 years to get remedial action on this. It is not uncommon to find that all parking spaces are full by 9am on weekday mornings, so neither users of The Leys nor sometimes even our own staff can park. This is against the spirit of what these parking spaces are for: to enable individuals and families who are unable to walk or cycle to enjoy this precious park and all its amenities. It also silently kills trade in the café, which jeopardises our ongoing operation.

While the enforcement of existing parking on The Leys is outside the proposed development boundary, and thus the maYer of separate discussions between Witney Town Council (landowner), West Oxfordshire District Council (planning authority) and Oxfordshire County Council (responsible for highways), it helps provide the context for our proposal to add public car parking. Alongside this, we have also proposed improved pedestrian access from Station Lane to connect the park beYer with local businesses and walkers/cyclists from Ducklington and the surrounding area. We favour active travel over car use, as we want to encourage more people to ‘get moving’.

We have listened to the concerns of local residents (especially in BuYercross Lane and Leys Villas), liaised with Councillors and our partners at Witney Town Council, and would like to make the following revisions to our site proposals:

  1. Remove the new public access car park and passing bays to restrict traffic and protect green space
  2. Restrict the service lane to authorised vehicles only (disabled, staff, deliveries) via a locked controlled access gate, as per the current situation
  3. Add mobility scooter parking (a direct request from our neighbours at Fernleigh)
  4. Add a clear pedestrian crossing to connect the hub building and changing rooms (a direct request from WODC)
  5. Add a new activity for older generations (a direct request from Fernleigh)
  6. Add security fencing and a private gate along the new pedestrian access (a direct request from Witney Town Bowls Club)

These amendments are accompanied by further proposed traffic calming measures within the park, which are also separate from our planning application.

We have appreciated the open discussion and suggested design improvements in reaching this pragmatic compromise, which we hope will have the support of local residents and allow the planning application to proceed promptly, not least as our Government funding is time-limited.

Court lighting

One or two people have commented on the introduction of LED lighting on the sports courts, concerned that this might be a ‘nuisance’. We trust that will not be the case as the operation of these lights would only be when there are live bookings, one court at a time, and they would be subject to a curfew time of 10pm. The lighting columns will be 10m high, lower than the typical 12m, and the  

LED lights themselves are directional, illuminating the playing area and limiting light spill beyond the court. There is no ‘cooling down’ period with these lights: they turn on and off in a split second.

Having court lights available to Witney residents allows year-round exercise to take place, helps with workforce (sports coach) recruitment and retention, and addresses a known gap in West Oxfordshire District Council’s Playing Pitch Strategy.

An additional benefit, we hope, will be a reduction in anti-social behaviour arising directly from a net loss of ‘dark spaces’ in the park, and indirectly from more activities to engage young people, including free access to the redesigned skatepark and new basketball courts. This should improve perceptions of safety in the park.

Tennis/padel courts

Some have questioned the reduction in tennis courts and the introduction of padel. Our mission as a social enterprise is to bring people together and encourage them to be active, socially and physically. Racket sports are an excellent way to help achieve this, not least as research shows they can significantly improve health outcomes and add up to 1ti years of life expectancy!

The current utilisation of the tennis courts is under 1ti% and, over the years, we have hardly ever needed more than 4 full-size courts. Focusing on these 4 courts, with a beYer community offer (from tots and juniors to adults and seniors), will improve participation outcomes and be complemented by mini courts which have provided a popular ‘bat & ball’ alternative activity.

Padel, a hybrid between tennis and squash, is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and will be popular to a much wider range of people, as it is easier to play, very social (played in a doubles format) and the balls stay within the court! We are proposing a single span barrel vault canopy over 2 courts to allow for play regardless of the weather and to embed healthy habits for people throughout the year. This additional facility will be good for adults seeking competitive fun, for families enjoying time together, and older generations trying a more moderate racket sport.

Overall, we believe this re-configuration of the courts provides more choice for more groups, including the mini tennis courts, new 3x3 basketball courts or netball line markings all of which can be flexibly used by the community.

We hope the above demonstrates that we are listening to local people’s concerns and responding accordingly. We appreciate all constructive feedback and indeed the many voices of support received.

Jeff Hunter

MD, Courtside Hubs CIC t/a The Coffee Shed

November 2023 update

Planning application submission: The Leys multi-activity hub & community café

Our proposal to improve the facilities within The Leys Recreation Ground has now progressed to the planning application stage and is currently under consideration by West Oxfordshire District Council’s planning department.

As a reminder of the context... We are ‘Courtside’, an Oxfordshire-based community interest company, working with Witney Town Council, the Lawn Tennis Association, and other stakeholders to improve the lives of local people, especially those who face disadvantage in some way. BeYer known in Witney as ‘The Coffee Shed’ or ‘Premier Tennis’, we’re all part of the same team. Our mission is to bring people together and encourage them to be active.

The Coffee Shed is a source of great pride to us and, we hope, to the people of Witney. It’s been a roller coaster of ups and downs, from winning awards and rehousing rough sleepers to repeated anti-social behaviour and on-going trading challenges. We are optimists at heart and believe we can help The Leys to realise its full potential as a protected park that exists for the good of the community. To that end, alongside Witney Town Council’s improvement of playing pitches, we have been fundraising and working towards a major joint investment in upgrading facilities for the safety and enjoyment of all.

Our plans include creating a redesigned kitchen and bigger café, with new public access toilets and an indoor space to help host year-round community activities. We’d also like to introduce padel, the world’s fastest growing sport, to Witney as well as more leisurely activities. We have exciting plans for a redesigned skatepark and a mix of outdoor recreational facilities such as 3x3 basketball, netball and mini tennis with the installation of court lighting to encourage year-round play.

In short, we want The Leys to offer ‘a brew, a loo and lots to do’ in a way that is sustainable for all ages and for future generations. This shared desire to make Witney an even beYer place to live and work requires investment, which will come from ourselves, Witney Town Council and Levelling Up funding – but only if local people want it and it gains planning permission.

There will now be a period of statutory consultation where residents and stakeholders can provide feedback by visiting and searching for ‘The Leys’. While we are confident about the significant positive benefits this proposal will bring to a wide range of people, we are mindful that any change can raise questions or concerns, so if you do have any questions, please come and visit us at The Coffee Shed where we will happily discuss them over a warm mug of tea.

Please note all plans are subject to final funding, obtaining Council approvals and planning permission.

Courtside at The Leys

Registered in England & Wales № 9833819. VAT № 245014539. Registered office: Unit 20, Wheatley Business Park, Old London Rd, Oxford, OX33 1YW.