Who is for padel? New recreation plan to convert empty Historic Machine Shop No 8 in Chatham Maritime

A climbing wall, a drive-in – and now a center showcasing one of the most dynamic sports in the world: padel tennis.

It’s the latest plan to turn the empty shell of a historic former shipyard into an exciting leisure complex.

Padel is a mixture of tennis and squash

A proposal has been submitted to convert the iconic skeletal structure of Machine Shop No 8 in Chatham Maritime so that it can be dedicated to the game, which is a mix between tennis and squash.

And as he has already proven himself to football and tennis stars David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray, to name a few, it is hoped he will be a winner with the chiefs. and planning advisors when reviewed.

Also included are two restaurants, with a terrace overlooking the Dockside Outlet Center with its marina, shops and wide array of restaurants.

Center manager Anthony Sutton said “a household name” and “an established operator” had expressed interest in moving in.

Eight courts, which are around half the size of normal tennis courts, would sit in the central hall of the Grade II listed building.

“I’m really delighted that we have the opportunity to bring this burgeoning sport here to enhance the offering at both Dockside and Medway…”

The game, which began in Acapulco, Mexico, in 1969, has taken off around the world, especially in South America and Spain over the past decade.

And enthusiasts aim for it to be recognized in the programming of future Olympic tournaments.

Normally played in doubles, it is considered a “softer” activity than regular tennis and is suitable for all age groups.

By using a smaller racquet, the lighter ball has to bounce first before hitting the surrounding walls.

Mr Sutton said Covid and the rising cost of building materials had affected the outcome of the project.

Chatham Maritime's Number 8 Machine Shop could be used to house promising sports padel tennis.  Photo: Peter Still
Chatham Maritime’s Number 8 Machine Shop could be used to house promising sports padel tennis. Photo: Peter Still

He said: “Given the current economic climate, I’m as confident as we can be that we can do this and make it work.

“I’m really delighted that we have the opportunity to bring this burgeoning sport here to improve the offering at both Dockside and Medway.

“Padel is for people of all ages and all levels.

“It will be open to members and walk-ins. People will be able to enjoy a drink around the changing rooms and there will also be two separate restaurants.”

Over the past seven years, WD Ltd, the owner of the commercial fleet, has offered several options for the massive cast iron frame that served as the drydock cover in the yard’s heyday.

The leisure complex would be next to the Dockside Outlet Centre, Chatham
The leisure complex would be next to the Dockside Outlet Centre, Chatham

Built at Woolwich Dockyard in 1845, it has been exposed to the elements and, due to its state of deterioration, is on the National Register of Heritage in Danger overseen by Historic England.

The plan is to make structural repairs by reinforcing the metal joints and protecting them with an extra durable paint, without changing its appearance and character.

Councilors rejected the drive-in cinema, with space for 64 cars, due to the possible impact of lighting and noise.

A climbing wall and a trampoline center were approved but never materialized. This was put in place largely due to the rising cost of steel and structural issues.

This latest request includes parking for more than 50 cars, which has already been granted.

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