Your Council Is Bending Over Backwards For Serco

The current scene at the Beacon Park Golf Course is well enough known. It is shambolic, as befits its management by Serco Leisure Operating Ltd, the company entrusted with the Council leisure services. Serco is known for the creeping, or rather galloping, intruding privatisation of our NHS and what it means in reality.

The landfill royalty scandal receives no public comment from your Labour council. It was a Tory council that introduced Serco into West Lancashire. 16 years or so, off to a bad start and worsening every year since. But give outsiders a sniff of easy money and they are all over it like a rash. And they were. Landfill specialists Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd found willing partners among WLBC officers and Serco. Just read the minutes!

Moving on, BPGC golfers and watchers saw the demise of the driving range, the club shop, and the creation of a butty bar. Appalling driving cages appeared. The putting area left to grow to a foot high. That’s golf under Serco!

The landfill development became landfill with no golf development. Landfill since 2013, no perceivable new Par 3 course, no foot golf, all other areas derelict. But hope springs eternal. Time and again we were encourage to dream. And it became a nightmare.

Trying to find what has happened led to question after question. This week we had some honest answers. Bad news answers. From a Senior WLBC Officer…”With regards to the re profiling, the following work has been confirmed as outstanding:

“Par 3 Short Course; Circa 15 metres of pathway left to form; Installation of final finish to pathways; Installation of gate to fencing to attenuation pond; 2nr Life Buoy’s installing onto the attenuation fence! Nothing about the course itself!

“Foot Golf; Approx. 225m3 of topsoil to be spread across the Foot Golf Area once the entrance area is infilled. Remaining topsoil to be carted over to Area 4 and potentially over the berms! that are required to be reformed to Area 3; Approx. 200m3 of soil to be spread within Area 4; Installation of stepped access for maintenance (4nr sets); Installation of final covering to the already stoned formed pathway;  Timber handrail installation to the pathway; Installation of timber fencing and gates. Note – Timber fencing all on site. Gates need to be procured;  Final swale installation required adjacent to Elmer’s Green Lane & The Foot golf site entrance

“Areas 3, 4 & 5; Area 3 – (1st Hole) Majority of levelling works complete. Topsoil on site and stockpiled in designated areas where not already installed. Fairway widened; Area 4 – Topsoil on site and stockpiled in designated areas where not already installed; Area 4 – Fill material on site and stockpiled in designated areas where not already installed;    Area 4 – Profiling and fill works; Remedial works and re-forming of berms where Bemus cabin/material store is currently located.

“The above work is currently being implemented and is due to be complete before Christmas 2020 (weather & COVID permitting).

“The final seeding and green works will not be able to be completed this year due to the growing cycle – usually planting occurs Sept and March.

“Therefore the final seeding and green shaping will occur in March 2021, this will delay the course opening until Autumn 2021 (again weather dependant).

“With regards to the question relating to greenkeeping staff, I can confirm that there is currently one member of staff employed as a Greenkeeper [Apprentice?] at Beacon Park Golf Course. The Head Greenkeeper left at the beginning of October and Serco are currently in the process of recruiting a new Head Greenkeeper. In the interim alternative arrangements are in place to provide the necessary expertise, which includes the use of the Council’s existing grounds maintenance team and other support from a local golf club.

“With regard to the planning breaches and any action that is required to be taken by the Head of Growth & Development, I can confirm that the “breaches of planning control” were regularised by the approval of 3 applications namely:  2018/1158/FUL, 2018/1164/FUL, and 2019/0660/FUL.

“As the applicant is currently implementing these permissions there is currently no breach of planning control at the site and therefore no action is required at this stage. Upon completion of the above works should there be any outstanding issues, further action would be taken”.

Well, slap me with a wet kipper! Unbelievable but true. So naturally there has to be a response, as follows. “Thank you. What I am clear about is, the matter of the Breach of Condition was an offence of strict liability.

“The then Borough Solicitor Terry Broderick stated in the Breach of Condition Notice that “It is an offence to contravene the requirements stated in paragraph 5 of this notice after the end of the compliance period. You will then be at risk of immediate prosecution in the Magistrates’ Court”.

“Town and Country Planning Act 1990 Section 179 “Offence where enforcement notice not complied with”.

(1)Where, at any time after the end of the period for compliance with an enforcement notice, any step required by the notice to be taken has not been taken or any activity required by the notice to cease is being carried on, the person who is then the owner of the land is in breach of the notice.

(2)Where the owner of the land is in breach of an enforcement notice he shall be guilty of an offence.

(3)In proceedings against any person for an offence under subsection (2), it shall be a defence for him to show that he did everything he could be expected to do to secure compliance with the notice.

(4)A person who has control of or an interest in the land to which an enforcement notice relates (other than the owner) must not carry on any activity which is required by the notice to cease or cause or permit such an activity to be carried on.

(5)A person who, at any time after the end of the period for compliance with the notice, contravenes subsection (4) shall be guilty of an offence.

“The offence created an intended financial benefit, the attraction of royalties. A Regularisation Application is required where works have already been carried out without consent and the owners wish them to officially conform to Building Regulations. Where works are carried out without building regulations approval being sought the owner may be prosecuted. However to facilitate people who wish to have work approved, there is a process called regularisation. A regularisation application is a retrospective application relating to previously unauthorised works i.e. works carried out without building regulations consent, started on or after the 11 November 1985.

“The purpose of the process is to regularise the unauthorised works and obtain a certificate of regularisation. Depending on the circumstances, exposure, removal and/or rectification of works may be necessary to establish compliance with the building regulations.

“It is therefore pertinent for me to ask how it came about that these “regularisations” by WLBC were approved as such. Was there an application by Serco Leisure Operating Limited, or by its agent? Did a WLBC elected member or committee know about and consider any application?”

I look forward to the WLBC response. As do the remnants of the Beacon Park Golf members club, if they are still around to be bothered about, or are listening from Berrington Hall Golf Club just up the road in Rainford.

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