Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 15, 2018

Lease Beacon Park Golf Course For £1 A Year? Yes Please.

Were you to be offered an annual tenancy or lease of the fabulous Beacon Park Donald Steel-designed golf course located in the picturesque West Lancashire countryside , and knew that the first round was played, in the summer of 1982 when the course was opened, by Sir Michael Bonallack and renowned designer Steel himself, how much would you pay? What would you say to £1 a year “if demanded”? Would you be blown away?

After a considerable wait for WLBC to comply with an FoI2000 request for the lease we learn that “From a rental starting on 24 July 2000 and thereafter from 1 April 2002  to a lease” for 16 years, while the course had achieved a fantastic degree of maturity with excellent greens and striped, tree-lined fairways, the annual lease fee awarded to DCT Leisure Ltd and then apparently passed on to Serco Leisure Operating Ltd has been £1.

The 26 page document states “Driving Range Means the land and building laid out and constructed as a golf driving range shown shaded blue on the Plan”. Then imagine being given an opportunity to dump landfill sky high on said driving range to create a) a dubious BMX facility and then b) a bogus and unplayable footgolf course, all to rake in untold royalties that disappear into a series of companies of dubious reputation as VAT avoiders and the “commercial in confidence” banner so beloved of private profiteers.

It must be the bargain of a lifetime “Use for the provision of a golf club and golf driving range by the Tenant on behalf of the Landlord to be made available to the general public. Rent Commencement Date 24 July 2000 £1 (One Pound ) per year (if demanded)”.

References to “consent of the Landlord” or words to similar effect mean a consent in writing signed by or on behalf of the Landlord by the Executive Manager Leisure Culture and Arts Services or his successor and to “approve” and “authorise” or words to similar effect mean (as the case may be) approved or authorised in writing by or on behalf of the Landlord by the Executive Manager Leisure Culture and Arts Services or his successor”.

Serco receives revenue from WLBC. In the first year of operation this was £984,000 and further yearly subsidies, inflation protected, lead to Serco receiving approximately £15 million from taxpayers.

There are letters circulating between Rosie Cooper MP and Serco. I receive copies. One of them was from the Contracts Manager for WLCL, and it can be recognised as a virtual copy of the letter received from Steve Lawrence from Serco Leisure Operating Ltd.

The Contracts Manager has added one paragraph that “However I have reviewed the membership at the Beacon, both past and present, and note that Mr Lenton has never been a member of the course so am somewhat perplexed by his comments regarding the management and condition of the course”. Does the Contracts Manager live in West Lancashire and if so, as a WLBC council taxpayer does he really think that only members and not council tax payers have the right to criticise the state of the golf course? Has he not heard that “God has blessed you, because your eyes can see and your ears can hear”?

For the record, I walk the course regularly and when I see the state of it I wonder as ever why Serco is allowed anywhere near it. I missed a few days of walking it and was told by a member “The fairway machine is still not working as of Wednesday, people losing balls and it is a joke”. The members deserve better than this, and not only members but we council taxpayers also.

The Contracts Manager also repeats what Steve Lawrence of Serco wrote “The meetings held between Serco and WLBC are not open public meetings and therefore it is not possible to open them to members of the course, however we will ensure that we communicate appropriately to all users of the course once we have an outcome from the meetings”. This frankly is an impossible limit on what is a public asset and as such is liable to WLBC due diligence and transparency. It is this secrecy that stops the destination of the landfill royalties being made known to us, the public, and golf club members. 

It is appalling. DCT and Serco, paying WLBC £1 a year for the “Use for the provision of a golf club and golf driving range by the Tenant on behalf of the Landlord to be made available to the general public. Rent Commencement Date Rent 24 July 2000 £1 (One Pound) per year (if demanded) and the driving range ruined.

“Driving Range Means the land and building laid out and constructed as .a golf driving range shown shaded blue on the Plan. References to “consent of the Landlord” or words to similar effect mean a consent in writing signed by or on behalf of the Landlord by the Executive Manager Leisure Culture and Arts Services or his successor and to “approve” and “authorise” or words to similar effect mean (as the case may be) approved or authorised in writing by or on behalf of the Landlord by the Executive Manager Leisure Culture and Arts Services or his successor”.

Today at Beacon Park Golf Course it was the Chairman’s Trophy major singles event. No fairways had been cut. 36 local golfers can give evidence to that effect. Following them were 40 golfers from another local society. Can you imagine the impression they had of this Serco managed facility? As for the social content, the lounge. It lost its Sky TV facility to save costs. So as fast as the golfers finish they all go to a pub, the nearby Prince William perhaps, to socialise and watch the match. It’s called the 19th hole up the road.


Responses

  1. Just another disgusting occurrence in a seemingly endless list of unanswerable questions !!

    • It is. These exposures are gradually opening up the use that has been made of this golf course for greedy opportunists. Pile the landfill as high as you can, eventually play 9hole golf high above the original field level. Pile even more landfill onto the old driving range and tell the public they can eventually play footgolf up there. And the royalties came in by the lorry load and went out via Serco, because they told us. How much? No answer. How much VAT paid? No answer. Due diligence by WLBC Leisure Services on subcontractors? No answer. But somewhere, some more papers will be found. Because the trail of 23,750 lorry loads of royalties must be somewhere.


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