Dereliction Of Duty, Known As The Great Golf Course Swindle

On being asked what evidence exists for how West Lancashire Borough Council owned Beacon Park Golf Course became a landfill site creating vast royalty wealth for Serco (the operator) and Oakland Golf & Leisure Ltd (referred to as Oaklands), we produce email exchanges below containing proof.
Questions

03 November 2015 12:52
To: Nelson, John; Gagen, Councillor
Subject: Beacon Park Golf Course

“Could you possibly let me know the start date for when Oaklands started their work at the BPGC, ie when the topsoil was first removed? Could you also let me know the start date for the delivery of the inert materials to BPGC? And could you please let me know how many deliveries of inert materials have been made to date?

“In respect of the new Footgolf proposal, could you let me know on what date this proposal was notified to WLBC, on which course it will be played, ie 18 hole/9 hole/both, and what fees will be charged? Has WLBC as a “one third shareholder” in the BPGC venture been presented with a business plan, and could you ascertain what staffing requirements there will be for this Footgolf venture?

“Finally for now when we spoke last I think we understood Oaklands allegedly has a record of golf course construction, but according to its website of historical completed projects there is no mention of any golf course constructed. That being the case how was WLBC able to conclude Oaklands was competent to undertake the project?”

Answers

05 November 2015 from John Nelson
“Further to your request for information.

“Contractors started on site in November 2013. The first sections of topsoil were moved back and deliveries of the inert materials commenced at the end of November 2013. The information regarding number of deliveries is not available. [Two years later and loads delivered not available!]

“Footgolf is one of the proposals for the Beacon, the course operator [Serco] was looking at incorporating this into the redevelopment work for the driving range and not the 18 hole or 9 hole course. WLBC is not a shareholder, the operation of the course and the facilities provided are for the course operator to determine. The Council will benefit from a split of one third of any operating surplus.[But not a shareholder in its own golf course]

“WLBC do not have a contract with Oaklands and would not be part of any verification or competency assessment of the company. This assessment was undertaken by Serco Leisure Operating Limited”. 

Regards John.
John Nelson
Head of Leisure and Cultural Services
West Lancashire Borough Council



Conclusion. West Lancashire Borough Council abdicated any responsibility for the development of the golf course, leaving it in the hands of Serco and the state you can see it in today. Planning permission granted in 2011, now nearing nine years for this appalling chapter in the history of this borough.

Low Trust In Politicians

Low Trust In Politicians

Philip Kolvin QC, above, recently wrote that trust in politicians is at a particularly low ebb. We know that the recent cases here in West Lancashire, where two wards have been denied the full service of what council tax pays for, by elected members fully paid for absenteeism, one by admission in London, prove it.

“Sam Currie
@Samuel_P_Currie
Conservative Cllr. 2017 GE candidate. Charity Trustee. Ex Royal Navy. Blackpool FC season ticket holder
London, England”

“Recent research by Ipsos Mori had indicated that only 16% of the population generally trust politicians to tell the truth. The picture in the north of England is worse at 11%. [That high?]

“So there’s clearly work to do to generate confidence in local democracy. For the public need to be able to trust those representing them to take decisions unsullied by any reality or perception of personal interest and to behave in the way they can reasonably expect of those in public office.

“But, and there’s always of course a but, there’s a tension between public expectations of probity in those entrusted with public power and the strong wish by those who wield that power to be allowed simply to get on and do their job without undue complexity of regulation. Nor to have to endure nitpicking, malicious or vexatious interference or complaint by those whose motives can often be dubious. Labour, when in office, brought out a revised Model Code of Conduct order in 2007. They offered their revised regime as “clearer, simpler and more proportionate”.

“Many politicians across the board increasingly resented the constrictions of what was widely viewed as a somewhat disproportionate and ‘Stalinist’ regime giving too much power and influence to officers to stifle the local elected politicians’ democratic mandate.

“Former Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles pledged to axe the whole Standards Board regime consisting of a centrally prescribed code of conduct, standards committees with the power to suspend councillors and an unelected central body. For in his view the ‘standards board regime became the problem, not the solution’. This was because allegedly unsubstantiated and petty allegations, often a storm in a teacup, damaged the reputation and standing of local government, as well as wasting taxpayers’ money. The view was that abolishing the regime will restore power to local people.

“Nevertheless, many in local government, both officers and members, believe that in drastically slimming down the regime, the Government managed to throw the standards baby out with the regulatory bathwater. This applies in particular to sanctions. As the Committee on Standards in Public Life has remarked, the only sanctions now available, apart from through the use of a political party’s internal discipline procedures, are censure or criminal prosecution for deliberately withholding or misrepresenting a financial interest. We do not think these are sufficient.

“But things are as they are and that’s the territory to be navigated by local authority councillors, monitoring officers and others responsible for, and subject to, operation of the system, including obligations on accessible treatment of personal interests, bias and predetermination, equality and discrimination and election issues”.

And probity. In planning. In a fair, impartial, and transparent way. In due diligence, as in making a comprehensive appraisal of an asset and evaluate its commercial potential for its owners, such as West Lancashire tax payers, owners of the Beacon Park Golf Course, much of which has been commercially buried under landfill for outsourced private companies.

If It’s A Good Party, No-One Leaves Early

Brexit talks break up and Frost leaves Brussels a day early. So are these ‘trade negotiations’ now no more than a sham?

Yesterday lunchtime the UK’s Chief Negotiator, David Frost, decided there was no point in continuing the trade talks with the EU which were supposed to have continued through until noon today. He and his team left Brussels and returned to London.

This was the first round of the new “intensified talks” which are scheduled to continue throughout July. It lasted just 20 hours, including the niceties. Only four hours were spent on actual negotiations about trade in goods and services.

As usual, once the talks had concluded, statements were issued by both sides. For the first time, however, Michel Barnier decided not to hold one of his very long press conferences. His statement was also many times shorter than the usual rambling monologue to which journalists and the public have been treated in the past.

David Frost’s statement was as positive as he could manage

“We have completed our discussion of the full range of issues in the negotiation in just over three days. Our talks were face to face for the first time since March and this has given extra depth and flexibility to our discussion. The negotiations have been comprehensive and useful. But they have also underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues. We remain committed to working hard to find an early understanding on the principles underlying an agreement out of the intensified talks process during July, as agreed at the HLM on 15 June. Talks will continue next week in London as agreed in the revised terms of reference published on 12 June.”

Barnier’s statement had the usual whiff of desperation about it

“This week, David Frost and I continued our discussions, together with a restricted number of experts on each side. As agreed two weeks ago at the High-Level Meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Presidents Ursula von der Leyen, David Sassoli and Charles Michel, the EU sought to inject new dynamics in the talks.

“Our goal was to get negotiations successfully and quickly on a trajectory to reach an agreement. However, after four days of discussions, serious divergences remain.

“The EU side had listened carefully to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statements in recent weeks, in particular, his request to reach a political agreement quickly, and his red lines: no role for the European Court of Justice in the UK; no obligation for the UK to continue to be bound by EU law; and an agreement on fisheries that shows Brexit makes a real difference. [We keep our fish].

“The EU engaged constructively, as we had already done during the fourth round of negotiations in June. We did so in line with the mandate entrusted to the European Commission by the Council, with the support of the European Parliament.

“The EU’s position remains [desperate], based on the Political Declaration, that there will be no economic partnership without 1 robust guarantees for a level playing field – including on state aid – to ensure open and fair competition among our businesses; 2 a balanced, sustainable and long-term solution for our European fishermen and women; 3 an overarching institutional framework and effective dispute settlement mechanisms. And we will continue to insist on parallel progress on all areas.

“The EU expects, in turn, its positions to be better understood and respected in order to reach an agreement. We need an equivalent engagement by the United Kingdom. We continue to believe that an agreement is possible and in everyone’s interest. We look forward to the next round of negotiations in the week of 20 July. In the meantime, and as agreed, we will continue our discussions in London next week.”

The translation of this is, in essence “Look, we’ve told you what we demand of you. We will be obeyed. Anything else means you are either stupid or wilfully disrespectful of the all-powerful European Union”. Crackers, or what?


Police Operation For Pubs And Bars

“We want to let you know that a significant policing operation is in place for the weekend,

as officers prepare for the reopening of pubs and bars in Lancashire. From Saturday, all pubs and bars, closed as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, can reopen with restrictions”.

Police are encouraging people to enjoy their day, behave responsibly and look after themselves. Ch Supt Sam MacKenzie, of Lancashire Police, said “We recognise the impact the lockdown has had and understand many people will want to take advantage of bar and pubs reopening. We want people to enjoy their day if they are going to the pub but we’d urge them to look after themselves and keep themselves safe.

“There is a significant policing operation in place with extra officers out and about. We also have policing plans in place covering the entire county including large towns and more rural areas. If you are going out, please follow the rules of the pub, pace yourself and drink safely. We will have extra resources on all weekend to target and deal with crime and anti-social behaviour. At best you can expect to be dispersed or sent home – at worst you can expect to be locked up”.

In June the government announced a series of measures to ease the lockdown in England. From July 4, social distancing guidance will change from 2m to ‘one metre plus’. As well as restaurants and pubs, museums and galleries, cinemas, hairdressers, children’s playgrounds and holiday accommodation can reopen from Saturday.

Ch Supt Mackenzie added “People should remember the guidance on social distancing and keep a safe distance from others. It’s up to people to show individual responsibility and do the right thing. The virus has not gone away. Keep a safe distance apart and keep yourself and your families safe. If you don’t feel you can socially distance inside or outside any licensed premises then do the sensible thing and go somewhere else.

“If we don’t control the virus there is a risk of a localised lock down which is something I am sure we would all want to avoid. Make sure you plan your journey home – some public transport operators are still running a reduced service and taxis may be hard to come by. If you see any large unlawful gatherings or anti-social behaviour then please tell us – by calling 101”.

The Demise Of Planning Objections Is Nigh

The factory production of mushrooms in a purpose built growing and incubation room, office, laboratory, plant room, cold store, packing area, and boiler room does not require farmland. It needs a factory.

But in its usual cack-handed way the WLBC planning system works against logic and so intends to allow a significant and controversial expansion of a Scarisbrick mushroom farm. This will be an early Boris the Builder infrastructure revolutionary planning decision, a “bugger off to objectors” decision. Get used to it, there will be others!

The proposal is recommended for approval by the council’s Director of Place and Community despite the opposition of four parish councils, dozens of residents and a campaign which has seen signs erected through the village and a public meeting attended by around 70 people.


In her report to the committee, Heidi McDougall argues that allowing the expansion will keep jobs in the area and boost the local economy. If approved, Smithy Mushrooms Limited (SML) will be able to expand its business by buying adjacent land to build on.

The new building will extend to approximately 17,561m2 and would be accompanied by a car park with 58 spaces. SML started as a small family business over 25 years ago and has grown to become a leading UK supplier of exotic mushrooms, including oyster, shiitake and coral. It supplies Marks and Spencer, Booths, and Tesco as well as major food service wholesalers and food processors and ready meal companies. It employs 38 full time staff and has an annual turnover of £5.6m but has exceeded capacity at its existing site and fears being squeezed out of the market if it cannot expand. Smoke and mirrors!

 

The plans to build the 7.9m (25ft) tall structure have created anger in the wider community and residents have campaigned against its approval. The parish councils for Scarisbrick, Wrightington, Newburgh, and Burscough have all formally objected to the council, as has the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Among the reasons stated for objecting are the size of the new building; the increase in traffic including HGVs; loss of diversity of land use; impact on pink footed geese,

whooper swans and other birds; and the potential loss of Grade 1 agricultural land.

In her report for the planning committee, Ms McDougall states that as the new structure is for agricultural purposes, it does not represent inappropriate use of Green Belt land. She states that the new building will create a “vertical landmark” but that harm caused to the visual amenity “is limited as key features of the landscape would remain including the existing pattern of field boundaries”. Have you ever read about vertical landmarks limiting harm to existing patterns of field boundaries?

Her report concludes “The proposed development would allow a local employer to remain in the area and expansion of the business would bring benefits to the local economy. The design of the building is appropriate, would not result in significant harm to visual amenity or the character of the landscape and there would be no undue impact on highway safety, residential amenity or biodiversity”.

West Lancashire Borough Council’s virtuality planning committee will decide on the application during its virtual meeting on Thursday, July 9, after which we all might conclude holding public meetings and objecting is a waste of time.