Members of top tennis club rally against the developers

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The Independent Online

Blue-blooded members of the Queen's Club have been asked to save one of Britain's most historic sports venues from the clutches of property developers.

Around 3,800 members are considering buying the west London tennis club, which hosts the pre-Wimbledon Stella Artois tennis tournament, when it is vacated by its current owners, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).

But each member will be required to contribute £13,000 towards preserving the 13-acre site near Earl's Court, which commercial valuers say is worth at least £50m.

The club was founded in 1886 with facilities for lawn tennis, racquets and real tennis. It also hosted the Varsity rugby match, Corinthian football club fixtures and athletics.

But its future has been in doubt since the LTA announced plans to take its headquarters to a site earmarked for the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, west London. The move is awaiting planning consent, but the LTA has given an assurance that members, who include several minor royals, will be given sufficient notice to make their own bid.

The secretary of Queen's Club, Jonathan Edwardes, said: "It is still at an early stage but we have been told we will have an option to bid for the site."

Although members may be in line for a windfall payment if the club is sold, the majority remain opposed to a sale of the site to make way for a leisure centre or housing development.

The LTA's executive director, John Crowther, has sought to assuage members' fears of the club's imminent demise and has offered a chance for a consortium to buy the freehold or lease the site. Local residents are also expected to raise objections with the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham if the site is put on sale.