Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 7, 2018

No End In Sight For The Beacon Park Golf Course Landfill Saga

Unless WLBC takes back control of the Beacon Park Golf Course  quickly it will almost certainly be a total embarrassment for the borough. It is already mentioned in a Leisure Services Tender document as being considered for a stand alone leisure facility. 

I received a copy of a letter from Serco, dated 29th August 2018 in response to the concerns I have been describing about Beacon Park Golf Course regarding the land re-profiling, or as I usually describe it, landfill to fill pockets of those involved other than to benefit West Lancashire council tax payers.

The Serco letter refers to how they have “been working closely with West Lancashire Borough Council (WLBC) in order to satisfactorily resolve the situation for all concerned”. It’s beyond belief this craven attitude is the answer to the breach of planning committed only by Serco and known to its partners including Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd. As you know there are other breaches of planning conditions at the Beacon Park Golf Course known to the WLBC Leisure Services but ignored for reasons unknown to the public. WLBC itself referred to the illegal dumping of landfill along the entire length of the left hand side of the 1st fairway. Isn’t that guilty knowledge?

As for the Serco response to my comments regarding “shambolic management” I read it with contempt. For them to claim “the current condition of the course as excellent and it has been improving steadily over the past two years…when Serco took on management of the course in 2012 the course had been run down for a number of years and we have invested heavily in order to enhance the course and facilities and we continue to invest in staff, equipment and infrastructure” is appalling. Serco has had the management of the course for 6 years, so why is it being claimed only to have been improving steadily for just the past 2 years?

For the record, on Thursday 23 August 2018, the Beacon Park Golf Course members club was due to play a crucial league match, to possibly win the league title, against Formby Hall Golf Club. To quote a BPGC player “A few days before the match we asked could we have grass around the greens cut as it was way too high. They [Serco] told us the machine was broken and waiting for it to be repaired. The golfers asked “Could we hire one in, we would pay as this is an important match. They, Serco, got one in for a couple of days. Since then there’s been no machine and it’s back the way it was as of Monday. Members are saying they are thinking of cancelling their direct debit until things are put right. How long does it take to get a machine fixed? Surely a company of Serco’s size has a lot of say or just hire one until theirs is repaired. Don’t know why it takes so long, we pay good money and all we ask is for the course to be cut and looked after so we can play a good round of golf, what we pay for. There’s public that just walk on without paying, Serco do nothing and then tell us they’re losing money. They’re quick to tell us our contracts are due”. So much for all this “heavy investment in equipment”! The BPGC members won the match and the league title!

As for investment in staff, Serco has published days ago a vacancy for a cafe/bar assistant at Beacon Park Golf Course for a wage of up to £7.83 per hour, whereas the WLBC living wage rate is £8.75. That’s as bad as Serco wanting to pay an apprentice there less than the national apprentice rate some time ago, as I informed you. Sounds more like cheap labour!

I also received a copy of a letter from the Director of Leisure and Environment. It is now also admitted by her that the 9Hole course opening is delayed due to factors “including growing cycles, the time required to complete the initial land profiling and latterly reviewing the drainage situation”. The Director was advised to tell a local resident of the necessity to “wait to assess the drainage situation and wait for other improvements. It could open in 2019 but is dependent on the weather conditions”. Development of it began in 2013!

In her letter of 29 August 2018 she confirms that “Council officers and Serco are working hard to find a solution that redresses the planning breaches while minimizing the impact upon those using the Golf Course”. Competent golf course experts wouldn’t have created and left such a mess. BPGC was sadly placed in the hands of landfill contractors. Used professionally for the real planning improvements “to golf and country club including remodelling of 5th, 6th, 13th and 14th holes and formation of junior academy practice course” the course would be long improved and a credit to the West Lancashire Borough leisure portfolio.

The appearance of a letter in 2011/0787/FUL mentioning Mr Jonathan Snellgrove [who received planning permission for BPGC] ultimately led us to Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd , referred to as in WLBC documents as “Oaklands”, and into a web of companies involving landfill, unpaid VAT, and unfinished golf course projects.

The rest, as they say, is history. I’ve copied this for information as shown above. It appears Serco has no interest in accepting its liability, even in the face of events like the recent golf league match. At least everyone is fully aware of it. Serco received its “Breach of Notice” on 16 May 2018 and time expires on 16 November 2018. Prosecution and conviction looms, for as WLBC stated, there is no right of appeal and it is an offence to contravene the requirements of the notice.

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