Posted by: westlancashirerecord | March 11, 2018

Golf Course To Close In 20 Days?

The physical distance from Beacon Park Golf Course (BPGC) to Sherdley Park Golf Course (SPGC) is about 15 miles. The difference in golf courses is that while BPGC remains owned by West Lancashire but leased to Serco, SPGC is municipally owned and run by St Helens Council . But not for much longer, as SPGC, also the home of private St Helens Golf Club, has received a death sentence on the altar of austerity.

St Helens, using its famous “Go Active” slogan , will tell its golfing pensioners, mainly aged 65-80, to become inactive instead from 31 March.

Reports of the St Helens Council having spoken with 14 interested parties over a potential purchase of the golf course were given at a town hall meeting. However, any possible purchases must take place before a deadline of March 31, otherwise the course will close. Last year the golf course and driving range were placed under review. The news of the potential axing of the course caused much dismay among golfers.

The 18-hole course, which costs £230,000 a year to operate, is the only municipal in the borough and home also to St Helens Golf Club, a private club. The council previously stated there has not been a decision to close the course with an effort to come up with a “sustainable model going forward”. But, seemingly in anticipation of closure the council reports that it has full title to the Golf Course and Driving Range. There are no known covenants to restrict use. Sherdley Park does have land which has been dedicated as QE2 Playing Fields, but this does not include the Driving Range or Sherdley Park. Any proposal for significant change to the access of the car park for the Driving Range may require the consent of Fields in Trust. There are no rights over the golf course but the title for the Driving Range does refer to an easement granted in 2012.

At an Environment, Regeneration, Housing, Culture and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Panel meeting on January 17 it was confirmed that interested organisations have made contact with the council. The majority of parties were described as a “small one-man band of golf professionals” with the others made up of “major commercial operators of golf who operate courses in the area”.

Cabinet member for libraries and leisure, Cllr Sue Murphy, said “Fourteen companies have shown an interest in moving into the golf course.” She added an “outside company” has been employed to look at tender documents, after there were delays due to staffing shortages. Cllr Murphy added “We are hopeful someone is going to take it but if they don’t the golf course will close and revert back to parkland”.

American Golf and North West Golf have been previously linked with the course and the Ian Woosnam Academy has publicly expressed interest. At the hearing Cllr Richard McCauley asked for clarification that the course would remain a municipal, which was described as “fundamental” to any possible deal. Panel chair Cllr Martin Bond asked for clarification that the council was confident there would be enough time to strike a deal ahead of the deadline.

On Monday, the council’s cabinet discussed the golf course in private because commercially sensitive material was under consideration. A budget and performance monitoring report discussed by councillors highlighted the council’s concerns with the golf course. “Work is continuing with regard to the golf course and driving range marketing exercise to ensure it is completed and a suitable partner identified,” the report said.

The report revealed that as at the end of quarter three of the current financial year, visits to the golf course and driving range were almost 25 per cent off target, with 24,045 visits. Performance is worse than the same period last year (32,119 visits).

It said the removal of the automated tees and poor weather in the autumn months has contributed to the further drop in performance. “The golf course and driving range have struggled to meet the income target for a few years despite a number of initiatives implemented, in an attempt to reverse the decline in visitor numbers,” the report said.

An announcement from the club states “Sherdley Park Golf Club May Soon Be Closing” and “I am very sad to announce that our fantastic golf course may soon be shut down, due we are led to believe by government cuts in funding! I am dismayed that the council has not tried or attempted to maintain the course, fetch it back to its former glory and attract new visitors to St Helens, plus in the process attaining more revenue to keep the course open! I agree they are under pressure from government cuts, but why strip away parts of our community, why always the easy option without thought of the people or communities it affects?

“This view of current proceedings is mine and mine alone, and may not reflect the view of everyone at the club, I take the view that this course and clubhouse has been well run and supported by the golfing communities in the north west for 44 years, and in that time we have supported and collected many thousands of pounds for numerous local and worthwhile charities in our region. and also within that timescale also subsidised many of the St Helens council projects.

“Every year our captain nominates a charity, and we all support him in many different ways to attain his target, not only are the council taking away our golf course they are denying our local charities much needed funds. This decision will definitely resonate negatively with communities in our area for many years to come, also at the same time they are denying children and parents access to the pets corner in Sherdley Park, which is also rumoured to be closing.

“Now I ask myself, how have they got the heart to do this? How do they sleep at night? I’m sure within our town there are better and more places that are run down and empty, that could be redeveloped? What will be the next free green space to go?

“Another thing i am concerned about is the fact, that we have a lot of senior players here at Sherdley Park golf club with ages ranging from 65-80 years old. For these people the course represents their only real chance to stay fit and healthy, keep their minds active, and take part in social occasions at the club which means they always have something to look forward to, to take away this boon to our pensioners is just another kick in the teeth, and from a so called caring St Helens council whose motto is the much acclaimed GO ACTIVE which is advertised all over the town? If this isn’t hypocrisy I don’t know what is.

“All these bad decisions are being made behind closed doors in council run offices, with no thought or suggestion of a meeting with our golf clubs that share this golf course, (Sherdley Park GC & St Helens GC). There have not even been any discussions held with our local communities about the closure of pets corner, and I feel this is a very sad & sorry state of affairs, in fact I’m disgusted by the council actions on both these matter? I thought they were elected to look after our community affairs & businesses not destroy them?”

The council report makes this obvious conclusion “If the Council did not operate the golf course a saving of £38,672 on the current Revenue Budget for Sherdley Park Golf Course and Driving Range (refer to Appendix 1) would be achieved. However, current forecast trading deficit is £256,465. Over the next three years this amounts to a potential reduction in budget pressure of £587,361 (£769,395 – £180,034)”.

As stated, this is a death sentence on the altar of austerity. What will it achieve for those aged 65-80? Does anyone care?

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