Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 17, 2018

Sloppy Scrutiny? Pic’nMix Planning?

West Lancashire Borough Council produces an Overview and Scrutiny Annual Report and it did so for 2016/17 . It states “Leisure Trust. An update on the work undertaken in the previous twelve months is presented on behalf of West Lancashire Community Leisure (WLCL)/SERCO. In 2016/17 the Contracts Manager, along with the Chairman of WLCL, attended a meeting (13 October 2016) to present the annual report of that body and responded to questions on the presentation”.

At the meeting on 13 October 2016, minutes show that “Officers attending included the Director of Leisure and Wellbeing (Mr D Tilleray) and the Deputy Director of Leisure and Wellbeing (Mr J Nelson). External attendees were the Chairman West Lancashire Community Leisure (WLCL) Ms J McNally and Contracts Manager (WLCL) Mr M Snaylam”. In Item 24 WEST LANCASHIRE LEISURE (WLCL)/SERCO ANNUAL REPORT it is minuted that “Consideration was given to the presentation by Joan McNally, Chairman and Mark Snaylam, Contracts Manager of West Lancashire Community Leisure (WLCL), supported by a series of slides as contained on pages 189 to 200 of the Book of Reports. In her presentation the Chairman of the Leisure Trust acknowledged the good work undertaken by the Trust Members throughout the year and included reference to: Charitable Status obtained… Beacon Park – changes at the Golf Club (redevelopment of footgolf course); update on land reprofiling; continued investment in the site, despite drop in operational income; new park design “Pirates of the Carribeacon”. Beacon Golf Course – decline in golf usage; broadening demographic usage; opportunities for diversification. RESOLVED: That the performance of West Lancashire Leisure/Serco for the previous 12 months, be noted and the representatives be thanked for their presentation and attendance”.

It seems that the so called “redevelopment of footgolf course” went unchallenged by scrutineers. There is no “footgolf course” at the Beacon Park Golf Course. There never has been and there isn’t one now. So-called “redevelopment” is of the perfectly adequate old driving range by landfill, so much so that there is a Breach of Notice Order by the WLBC Solicitor “requiring Serco Operating Leisure Limited to “Remove all excess material placed on the land…”.

This wasn’t scrutiny, it was rubber stamping of what WLCL/SERCO wanted, no questions to be asked and answered about why “We are looking to develop our driving range which is currently really just a field by providing a far more attractive facility with raised greens, perimeter mounding and improved targets, so that’s exciting too. This means we can improve the security to the range as well as the safety issues with regard to perimeter fencing, which I believe needs to be addressed” became a huge mound of royalty driven landfill.

How ironic is it that on 1 April 2011 we were told that a “New operator for Beacon Park Golf Course, West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust has been announced as the new operator of Beacon Park Golf Course from the New Year. John Bullock, chairman of the West Lancs Community Leisure Trust, said “We are delighted to take on the day-to-day operations of the golf course. The Leisure Trust is committed to making sure the sporting facilities in the area are first class and we hope to continue this at the golf course. The course, on Beacon Lane, Up Holland, will continue to operate as normal and members and visitors will see no change in the service offered. All staff will continue to be employed at the site”.

Councillor Andrew Fowler, portfolio holder for Health and Leisure, added “Beacon Park Golf Course has always been a fantastic facility for West Lancs and we’re pleased the trust has agreed to take over its running. This will ensure the course continues to be managed by leisure experts as well as providing stability for the staff and members”. As we all now know the course turned out to be managed not by leisure experts but by landfill experts. April fool’s day was so apt?

For the record “Phase 2 of the development was the remodelling of the existing golf range” and “I can confirm that the 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 suddenly, low and behold “The details of the proposed cycling facility are still at a very early stage and will be subject to funding and support being identified from partner organisations including British Cycling and Sport England. As part of the management of the proposed cycling facility  consideration and restrictions will need to be in place to protect the golf course. We are not in a position to confirm the option of the cycling facility as it is still in the discussion stage and not as yet a firm proposal”.

But the cycling proposal disappeared and Himalayas style footgolf was the next fad. “The website for Beacon Park Golf Course is today advertising “Coming Soon… 9 hole par 3 golf course and footgolf-new to 2016”. And “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”… which will probably never happen.

Having been told that “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. I do not hold any correspondence with UK Footgolf” by a senior officer, we can only surmise on what any scrutiny of that matter might have discovered? 

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