Nine Weeks And Counting For Serco

Another two weeks have passed, seemingly without any effort by Serco Leisure Operating Ltd to comply with the order to re-profile the landfill on Beacon Park Golf Course former driving range. Curious readers and golfers want to know when it will happen. It relates to the “Breach of Notice Reference E/2015/0223/BCN that was issued to Serco Leisure Operating Limited by the Borough Solicitor dated 16 May 2018. The relevant planning permission relates to 2016/0040/FUL for the “Variation of Condition 7 imposed on planning permission 2011/0787/FUL to read ”The development shall take place in accordance with the Coal Mining Risk Assessment Addendum Report produced by WSP dated November 2015” Condition 1 (A map). “The WLBC Solicitor requires Serco Operating Leisure Limited to “Remove all excess material placed on the land hatched black on Attached Plan 2 dated 11 May 2018 to provide the land profile as defined by Sections M-M, N-N, and O-O and contoured site plan all shown on plan reference 1115.14 received by the Local Planning Authority on 13 July 2011”.

Our curious readers might wonder why WLBC won’t agree to supply details of what the excess material level actually is. This was the driving range on 13 July 2011  and when landfill finished this  is our artistic view of it today. Having asked WLBC to offer pictorial evidence of what the completed level might be the answer is “Thank you for your e-mail of 11 July 2018 requesting the annotating of photographs of the Beacon Park Golf Course taken in 2011. Noting that under both the Environmental Information Regulations and the Freedom of Information Act there is no requirement for public authorities to create information that is not already held by that authority, in all the circumstances officers are unable to assist you further with this request”.

The problem with that reply is it does not disclose by how much landfill DID Serco Leisure Operating Ltd/Oakland Golf & Leisure Ltd exceed their authority. Lines on a “land profile” and or a contoured site plan are no help at all to those who want to know what tonnage of landfill will be re-profiled, and what is the destination of the removed landfill. 

It’s worth noting yet again that the then WLBC Head of Leisure and Cultural Services stated in writing “The Borough Council does not have a direct contractual agreement with Serco Leisure Operating Limited for the operation of the Beacon Golf Course. West Lancashire Community Leisure Ltd is a not for profit company trust organisation (Non Profit Distributing Organisation – NPDO). They have an operating partner, Serco Leisure Operating Limited who manage the day today operations of the golf course”. But the “commercial in confidence” card has been played endlessly by Serco and WLBC to avoid disclosure of “royalties” for landfill. 

The same officer stated “The planning officers in relation to the general conditions under the planning approval and the Environment Agency in relation to the permit and licence for Oaklands [Golf and] Leisure Limited for the importation of materials on to the site. I also have a responsibility as the land falls under the leisure provision for the Council. Although the facilities are leased to West Lancashire Community Leisure the land and buildings belong to the Borough Council”. And “I can confirm that driving range will close prior to the phase 2 works and before a new play area is to be installed. It is not the intention of the operator to manage this area as a driving range in the future. I have agreed to this change in use and I am waiting for detailed proposals as to how this area will be used in the future. Depending on the proposals this may require separate planning permission”.

And “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. Footgolf is one of the proposals for the Beacon, the course operator 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”. WLBC do not have a contract with Oaklands [Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd] and would not be part of any verification or competency assessment of the company. This assessment was undertaken by Serco Leisure Operating Limited”.

He stated “The Borough Council are not party to the agreement with Oaklands [Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd] to deliver the scheme and are not part of the monitoring of the contract. The Council’s legal department were not involved or provided advice regarding the agreement between Oaklands and West Lancashire Community Leisure/Serco. The information regarding the number of HGV deliveries has not been made available directly to the Borough Council. The monitoring of the loads is undertaken by Oaklands, each load is recorded and this information is monitored by the Environment Agency. Royalties to the Leisure Trust are paid per cubic meter and not per load, The Leisure Trust/Serco receive information regarding the volume/cubic meters delivered to site”. 

What is of exceptional interest is that he stated, in 2016, that “In regards to the area previously used as a driving range, the delivery of inert landfill has now ceased in this area and the “shaper” is liaising with the greens team in order to shape the footgolf course in the most appropriate manner. This will commence after the Christmas break, dependent upon weather, and is expected to be complete in the new year and should be seeded in March 2017. The operator will have to allow the area to grow and mature for one full season before it can be considered as a usable area. In respect of footgolf the trust has engaged with UK footgolf and have worked closely with them to produce an appropriate area for this new facility”. Which brings us back to the requirement now for Serco Leisure Operating Ltd to remove all excess material placed on the land. On being asked about footgolf expertise he replied “In respect of footgolf the trust has engaged with UK footgolf and have worked closely with them to produce an appropriate area for this new facility” and thereafter stated “I do not hold any correspondence with UK Footgolf”.

The same officer, now retired from WLBC, is, from 25th January 2018, a Director [unpaid] of the West Lancashire Community Leisure Limited where his knowledge of the Beacon Park Golf Course development will be invaluable as Serco Leisure Operating Ltd is held to account for its breach of conditions.


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