Haringey Council says it will not introduce tennis court charges in the next year, as the Lib Dems hailed a U-turn on the proposals.

A petition launched by opposition councillors urging the local authority to keep tennis courts free gained more than 330 signatures.

The Liberal Democrats warned charges would disproportionately affect the poorest in the borough, who are more likely to have limited outdoor and play space of their own.

Their campaign came after Cllr Kirsten Hearn, the cabinet member in charge of leisure, emailed councillors to inform them people would need to book and pay for evening and weekend slots at courts that had previously been free, with some charges due to be introduced this year.

The website for booking the courts at Down Lane Park was still showing the new pricing structure on Thursday, although it has since been removed.

Cllr Hearn has now confirmed there will be no charges for using the council’s tennis courts in the next year.

Haringey Lib Dem spokesperson for culture and leisure Cllr Alessandra Rossetti said: “This U-turn is a relief. Numerous comments on our petition pointed out that tennis was a fun, socially distanced, outdoor activity and said they’d hate to see children whose families couldn’t afford to pay excluded.

“There is a review of fees for parks and sports currently underway. My colleagues and I will campaign to make sure charges for tennis do not get quietly get reintroduced through that route.”

Haringey Council currently has free tennis courts at Down Lane Park, Markfield Park, Downhills Park, Priory Park, Stationers Park, Chestnuts Park and Chapmans Green.

Courts that are leased to third-party providers at Finsbury Park, Bruce Castle Park and Albert Road Recreation Ground apply charges.

Cllr Hearn, who is cabinet member for climate change, equalities and leisure, said: “There will not be any charges for using the council’s tennis courts in the next year.

“Local authority budgets have been hit hard following years of central government austerity, and we always have to consider all options – particularly amid the pandemic this year, which has cost the council millions.

“This proposal was initially looked at almost two years ago, in February 2019. However, the charges were not implemented then, and, following further review this year, will not be now. As part of developing our new Parks and Green Spaces Strategy, we will be reviewing all fees and charges in our parks in 2021.

“Covid-19 disproportionately affects disabled people, BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities and people on low incomes. It is more important than ever that sport remains as accessible and socially inclusive as possible. This is what we are determined to do here in Haringey.”