If progress at the Beacon Park Golf Course is measured by the total amount of landfill dumped there then there has been much of it. Planning permission was awarded by the then Tory controlled WLBC on the basis of “give it all to Serco” who were involved in West Lancashire leisure facilities from as long ago as September 2004. In the now infamous letter from Serco Leisure to the then Acting Leisure Services Manager John Nelson, Serco sought and received “Authority To Proceed” with the management and operation of all but the Beacon Park Golf Course. That came later!
As the Chief Executive of Serco Group plc Rupert Soames wrote to Rosie Cooper on 24 December 2015 “We were contacted in November 2011 asking if we would take on the management of the course as the previous management company had served notice of their intention to quit as they were losing money on the course. Owing to our positive working relationship with West Lancashire Borough Council, the Trust and Serco agreed to take on the management of the course in order to keep it open and preserve its legacy for West Lancashire”.
Some legacy! Serco gave us what they claimed to be “inheritance of the current land re-profiling agreement”. Mr Soames wrote that “The current land re-profiling has been underway for far longer than originally planned and has indeed had an adverse effect on the users of Beacon Park”. Having written this on 24 December 2015 and here we are in late May 2018 you might wonder what Mr Soames will be thinking when he is told his company is now in receipt of a Breach of Condition Notice .
As we now learn, Rosie Cooper wants to meet with Serco Directors to get to the bottom of what really has gone on. It’s fairly simple. Excessive dumping over and above the maximum height means more than the allowed 23,375 HGV loads to deliver 187,000 cubic metres of landfill has “gone on” and the “royalties” have increased commensurate with the uncontrolled dumping.
Perhaps when, and if, Rosie Cooper does meet Serco Directors she might remind them of another statement from Mr Soames that “At the end of the second phase we plan to install a foot-golf course (subject to planning consent). Therefore there are a small number of low usage ancillary areas that have been lost [the driving range!]. However, they have all been to further develop the facility and add a wider range of facilities for the wider populous”. You couldn’t make it up!
What was applied for in 2011? “Partial remodelling of existing golf course and driving range and creation of new nine hole short course”. What do we have? Total devastation of the driving range, and a new nine hole heap of rubbish with no recognisable topsoil and exposed bricks and concrete, all without health and safety features. WLBC monitoring of this once famous course has been pitiful.
The arrogance of WLBC in relation to this matter of what is now revealed, that “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” is appalling. In July 2017 I asked WLBC under Freedom of Information Act 2000 “In respect of “The conditions for planning application 2011/0787/FUL that included “Phase 3 Formation of a 9Hole short course on 3.7ha of land located to the west of Beacon Lane and to the north of Elmers Green Lane. This will be formed by the importation of 65,000m³ of inert soil with mounds and ridges to a maximum of 168mAOD”. Will West Lancashire Borough Council a) confirm by independent professional assessment that the existing uncompleted 9Hole short course referred to does not exceed the permitted 168mAOD (average height) of all its mounds and ridges and b) will West Lancashire Borough Council disclose the latest expected date for the 9Hole short course completion and use by the public?”
The reply 15 August 2017 “Thank you for your email of 26th July 2017 in which you made the following request for information; a) confirm by independent professional assessment that the existing uncompleted 9Hole short course referred to does not exceed the permitted 168mAOD (average height) of all its mounds and ridges and b) will West Lancashire Borough Council disclose the latest expected date for the 9Hole short course completion and use by the public? In response, I can confirm that a survey of the site has confirmed that the mounds and ridges of the 9 hole short hole course does not exceed 168m AOD. Weather permitting, the plan is still to open in spring/summer 2018, but as it involves the grass growing and being appropriately treated and conditioned this could change. The Council will endeavour to keep everyone informed of any changes, should there be any. If you have any queries concerning the information provided, please do not hesitate to contact me. Yours sincerely, John Harrison DipEnvP, MRTPI. Director of Development and Regeneration. West Lancashire Borough Council.
Same day, 15 August 2017 I asked “Dear Harrison, John, Please publish the detailed site survey including the date undertaken and was the surveyor independent of WLBC or an employee of WLBC? Yours sincerely, Alan Lenton”.
21 August 2017 “Dear Mr Lenton, Thank you for your email of the 15th August. The survey was undertaken on behalf of the Council in June 2017 by Survey Operations, which is a local independent survey company. The Council does not propose to “publish” the survey drawing as there is no requirement to do so. I have however attached for your information a PDF copy of the survey drawing which details spot heights across the site . If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to Kim Webber, Chief Executive. Regards. John Harrison DipEnvP, MRTPI. Director of Development and Regeneration. West Lancashire Borough Council”.
21 August 2017 “Dear Harrison, John, Thank you for your reply and the attachment. Unfortunately your reference to the attachment as a “survey drawing which details spot heights across the site” is of little help to me or possibly any other West Lancashire resident who is interested in “real” heights the Planning Statement documents referred to. There has been no mention in the planning application that “spot heights” will form part of any report. By stating that “The Council does not propose to “publish” the survey drawing as there is no requirement to do so” demeans the requirement for transparency that WLBC has set itself. Please reconsider your response. Yours sincerely, Alan Lenton
22 September 2017 “Dear Harrison, John, Your response to my request for a sight of the survey drawing, that you then claim is not a council requirement, is frankly uncalled for. A spot height survey is not something residents like me can relate to in terms of massive landfill on a golf course. This course is a public asset, not one reserved to officers for responses such as yours. In the light of your refusal I ask for an internal review by the Chief Executive. Yours sincerely, Alan Lenton”.
17 October 2017 “Dear Mr Lenton. Thank you for your email dated 22 September 2017 in which you requested that I carry out an internal review of the Council’s response to your Freedom of Information request dated 15 August 2017. The Decision-On 15 August 2017 you asked the Council “to publish the detailed site survey including the date undertaken” and asked if the surveyor was independent of WLBC. In response to that request, Mr Harrison confirmed that the survey was carried out by an independent survey company in June 2017. He informed you that the Council does not propose to publish the survey as there is no requirement to do so, but to assist you he provided a copy of the survey to you. Outcome of my Review. I have now conducted a review of the Council’s decision and I can find no fault with this. Mr Harrison explained that although the Council did not intend to publish the survey, he would provide you with a copy of it, and did so, for your information. Next Steps. If you are not content with the outcome of an internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications. Yours sincerely Kim Webber BSc (Hons) MSc Chief Executive West Lancashire Borough Council”.
As it now happens, the value of the “spot heights across the site survey” is irrelevant. What matters is that WLBC, under a legal liability not to mislead the public, has done so and has been found out. What will be the total loss Rosie Cooper refers to as she stated “I will continue to pursue this matter as there should be proper accountability by those who made these poor decisions which I believe led to a loss of revenue to WLBC and its council taxpayers from both the course and the proceeds from the amount of rubble and waste materials which have been dumped”. The FoI details can be found here https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/information_about_the_new_9hole#incoming-1054496