Summer is a great time to play racquet sports and padel is no exception. However, residents in Flanders are complaining about the noise from padel courts and in Wallonia, some citizens are protesting, reported Sud Info.
Padel is a mix of tennis and squash and it is gaining increasing traction. In 2021, there were 5,900 members in the French-speaking Padel Association and numbers appear to be increasing.
But as more people flock to the sport, the number of padel courts is growing, leaving many people unhappy due to noise. Padel courts are surrounded by glass walls on which balls played in the sport bounce, similar to squash.
Local residents in northern Belgium recently contacted the Flemish Minister for the Environment, Zuhal Demir and asked her to regulate the construction of these sites.
"If I want to sleep after my night job, I have to go to my mother's house," explained Hans, who lives next to a padel court.
It is an issue that transcends the language divide in Belgium. In Wallonia, local residents have questioned the Walloon Minister for the Environment, Céline Tellier, on how to deal with the noise and the light pollution.
Noise and light issues
Petitions from people in Wallonia point to the non-stop noise of bouncing balls but also the lighting of the courts at night. As increasing amounts of tennis clubs add padel to their repertoire and convert their courts to padel, the risk of more noise increases for the locals.
Tellier is aware of the issue. "Currently, padel tennis courts are not classified under the environmental permit. There are therefore no noise standards of the municipality where the padel tennis courts are located," Tellier said.
The minister added that some acoustic studies had been carried out, but the results showed that despite the potential penalty for noise, the tennis establishments could be considered compliant under the current legal framework.
"That is because despite the noise from the impact of the balls on the glass walls, which is particularly disturbing for local residents, the activity itself does not generate any other noise," Tellier explained.
Yet the minister has instructed her team to look into regulation the courts, such as the location of new courts and ensuring that they are created away from residential areas. In addition, the courts would have to be covered, which could be advantageous for owners and as the courts could then be used during winter.
Padel tennis is a game adapted from tennis, although compared to tennis, the court is smaller, the net is lower and it has no double lanes. The smaller court creates an emphasis on net play, creasing a fast-paced game, typically played as doubles.
It is a fast-growing sport, and has overtaken the popularity of tennis in countries such as Spain. In Belgium, around 37,000 people have discovered the sport and the number keeps growing.