West Lancashire’s Vision For Planning Enforcement

Rosie Cooper MP reported that West Lancashire Borough Council served a ‘Breach of Condition Notice’ on the management at Beacon Park Golf Course, Serco. In 2011 “The proposed development comprises the remodelling of approximately 12 hectares of the existing Beacon Park Golf Course. It involves the remodelling of the 5th, 6th,13th and 14th holes and construction of temporary greens and tees with the importation of 55,000cubic meters of inert soil; remodelling of the golf range  to provide perimeter mounding and improved targets with 35,000cubic meters of inert soil; formation of 9hole short course for junior golfers on 3.7ha land to be formed by importation of 65,000cubic metres of inert soil; remodelling of 1st and 2nd tee with 32,000cubic metres of inert soil” .

The breach of condition notice relates particularly to the profiling of a part of the course, whereby the maximum height allowed under the original planning consent has been exceeded, with the quantity of infill which should have been added over the whole site has been concentrated in one area. Serco will now have six months to comply with the breach of condition notice and remove material from the area around the driving range and the foot golf area. So what might be the destination of the material under notice of removal? How much does the notice specify?

WLBC states that “The planning system operates to regulate development and the use of land in the public’s interest having regard to the Development Plan and other material planning considerations. The effective and proper enforcement of planning control is essential to public confidence in the planning system. It is important that the local environment is protected from the harmful effects of unauthorised development, as are the interests of residents, visitors and businesses.

“West Lancashire Borough Council has a duty to investigate alleged breaches of planning control and has powers to remedy proven breaches subject to available resources. The Council views breaches of planning control very seriously. It is the Council’s policy to exercise powers appropriately and rigorously so that development takes place in accordance with the appropriate legislation, or with the planning conditions and limitations imposed on any planning permission through the development management process”.

WLBC defines a breach of planning control as “The carrying out of a development without the required planning permission, or failing to comply with any condition or limitation subject to which planning permission has been granted”. And “Planning laws are designed to control the development of and use of land and/or buildings in the public interest. They are not meant to protect the private interests of one person against the activities of another”.

The breach at Beacon Park Golf Course has been publicised on many occasions. Only now has WLBC reacted to the abysmal performance of the so-called development that will never deliver the Serco statement that they “Have proposed a surplus income share arrangement. They have not included any management fees in the cost of the operation and have agreed to absorb any losses incurred within the golf course arrangement during the contract period. The surplus income share is based on 1/3rds (thirds) distributed equally to West Lancashire Borough Council, West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust and Serco Leisure Operating Limited.

“The income share for West Lancashire Community Leisure will be used to support their outreach for community development work providing access for community groups and schools towards events and activities.

“The proposal includes investment into the golf course and facilities, reshaping of the landform to enhance existing golf holes and practice facilities and create a new 9 hole short course. Remodelled driving range outfield and target greens. Provision to enhance internal facilities in the golf club house and entrance area. The work is to be phased in over two years 2013-15 and has an estimated investment/enhancement value for the golf course of approximately £500,000”.

Driving range outfield? Target greens? New 9hole short course? Phased in over two years to 2015 and here we are in 2018 with a Breach of Condition Notice? WLBC states in its standard bumph that “The Council will also consider serving a Planning Contravention Notice (PCN) to obtain information relating to the alleged breach. A person on whom a PCN is served has 21 days to respond; failure to do so may lead to formal prosecution with a maximum fine on prosecution of £1,000 and a fine of up to £5,000 if false or misleading information is provided. Therefore, it may be several weeks until the appropriate evidence can be collected to enable the Council to reach the appropriate conclusion as to whether a breach has occurred”.

Perhaps giving Serco six months to comply with the breach of condition notice rather than a PCN is an act of generosity for the cosy relationship that exists between them and WLBC?

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