Senior, ie older members at the Beacon Park Golf Course Club are being discriminated against by the Serco/West Lancashire Community Leisure partnership simply by paying for annual membership. Once paid there are no refunds for having to play on a sub-standard course. Pay and play golfers can turn up, play a few holes and realise how bad the fairways are and obtain a refund. They might never return!
One of the dodgiest deals the Tory dominated council ever brought to the borough was to legalise landfill dumping on Beacon Park Golf Course to the extent it did, by allowing the destruction of a practice field and the driving range. It has connotations of the neglect of the valuable asset that was once assessed at circa £2million. Without any due diligence, cowboy companies arranged the dumping for royalties that came nowhere near to the borough accounts, paid by its own admission to Serco Leisure Operating Ltd via Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd . As quoted officially by WLBC “In 2011 the Beacon Park Golf Centre was transferred to the Leisure Trust who use Serco to deliver the service”.
The whole affair probably breaches the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 [CRA] and its predecessors the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and the Sale of Goods and services Act 1982. Prior to the CRA, consumers had no statutory remedies where services were of poor quality or defective although they had common law remedies (e.g. damages) where the services were in breach of any express or implied contract term that the supplier would use reasonable care and skill.
The CRA introduced a new provision under which the trader is contractually liable for any statements it makes. Serco Leisure Operating Ltd is the trader by contract for the Beacon Park Golf Course and its spokesman Steve Lawrence wrote “The current condition of the course is excellent and it has been improving steadily over the last 2 years”. That claim, you might surmise, will come back to haunt Serco.
The WLBC Director of Leisure and Environment wrote “In terms of the breach of contract between the Council/Serco/Trust and the Golf Courses Members, the Golf Course membership Terms and Conditions allow for work on the course to be carried out and if needed the temporary closure of greens, subject to sufficient notice being provided”. For her benefit we describe a golf course as “The grounds where the game of golf is played. It comprises a series of holes, each consisting of a teeing ground, a fairway, the rough and other hazards, and a green with a flagstick (“pin”) and hole (“cup”). From this she will conclude the temporary closure of greens is not the current issue.
The WLBC Director also stated “Serco have until the 16th November to comply with the breach of condition notice or to submit a further planning application and they are working closely with WLBC Officers and Oaklands [Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd] to find a solution. Pre-application discussions are confidential in nature and it would not be appropriate for third parties to form part of those discussions; however if a suitable solution can be agreed then subject to due planning procedure, proposals will be made available to Golf Course users at an appropriate time”.
In what was stated above readers will notice extreme use of the mushroom method of communication . You can go to the course, see the construction, for want of a better word, of the 9hole heap, and see the destruction of the driving range as it remains, but you can’t be told what is supposedly commercial in confidence about their bizarre wrecking ball management system.
But the Freedom of Information Act 2000 was amended so that “For normal planning applications, negotiations between the developer and planning authority, for example over section 106 agreements, are exempt from freedom of information requests on the grounds that they are commercially confidential. However, when a local planning authority applies to itself for planning permission, that exemption does not apply. In other words, a freedom of information request could obtain information about any written negotiations between the local authority officers involved in development and those involved in planning”. The borough refuses to disclose it.
For the record, John Nelson Head of Leisure and Cultural Services West Lancashire Borough Council wrote on 26 August 2015 “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”. He did that because in November 2011 the Cabinet decided “That the Assistant Director Community Services, in consultation with the Leader and relevant portfolio holder, be authorised to develop and implement proposals for the long term operation of the Beacon Park Golf Course and negotiate and conclude all arrangements (to include the obtaining of all necessary consents, providing for all requisite notices and the entering into all necessary licences, leases and agreements/documentation) to give effect to that proposal”.
It is a fact that the hidden economy of the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill industry is a West Lancashire Borough Council enabled black economy, a part of council economic activity which is unrecorded, unchallenged, and probably untaxed by the government, exposed with some certainty from the insolvency of DCT Leisure Ltd and its non payment of VAT. It goes ignored.