Was West Lancashire Borough Council taken in by “Play The World” golfing claims? We surmised whether leisure service functions in West Lancashire Borough Council should be subject to a Best Value Inspection, as is Liverpool City Council?
We take you back to November 2007, at a time when Serco Leisure Services Ltd was involved in the borough. A published headline in Golf Business News
stated “Liverpool Sports Park Includes Pay & Play Golf”. Today, in response to the mention of Allerton Golf Course in the Liverpool City Council Best Value Inspection, once again we prove common links between Liverpool City Council, Knowsley Borough Council, and West Lancashire Borough Council, through golf course fraud.
It takes us back over 13 years, to 30th November 2007 when the “Golf Business News” published a news story about UK Sports Parks plc from its two directors.
“Leeds based UK Sports Parks plc has applied for planning permission to develop their first multi activity sports and leisure facility on a 30-acre site near Gateacre and Woolton in Liverpool.
The Liverpool Sport Park will feature: • A 5-a-Side Soccer Centre with 11 floodlit, all weather pitches and dedicated soccer club house • A 54,000 sq. ft. multi use “Hub” featuring flexible units from 2,000sq ft, all enjoying access from a glazed atrium, some with triple and double eaves height • A 9 hole “Play the World” par 3 golf course, “Himalayas” style putting green and dedicated club house • A 2-Acre angling lake with 21 wheelchair accessible pegs.
UK Sports Parks plc is completing the golf course, angling lake and the 280 space car park ready for leasing by specialist operators. “The Hub” will be developed to shell specification to match tenant’s specific requirements and the Soccer Centre is available as a completed facility or serviced plot.
Chris Bennett, director of UK Sports Parks plc said “The Sports Park will bring together a large number of different sports and activities in one location and appeal to a wide cross section of users. Whole families visiting the Sports Park will find something for everyone to enjoy”. Possible operators for “The Hub” include: health & fitness, sports injury, a day spa, climbing wall, skate park, ice rink and adventure play…. the opportunities are boundless.
UK Sports Parks plc co-director Jonathan Snellgrove added “The mix of uses and activities is central to the success of the Sports Park. It is essential that we create a development that will attract as wide a cross section of visitor, throughout the day and week, as possible. The opportunities are limited only by your imagination”.
UK Sports Parks plc are also close to securing a second site in the North West and are actively looking for further opportunities Nationwide to expand the brand. [Beacon Park Golf Course?]
Jonathan Snellgrove continues by saying “Our Sports Park concept will compliment any regeneration plans that local authorities and development agencies may be considering and our early involvement ensures a balanced regeneration project that delivers sustainable Sports and Leisure facilities that do not rely on residential development to succeed”.
The Soccer Centre will work as a self-contained facility within The Liverpool Sports Park with its own clubhouse incorporating changing rooms, bar, lounge area and external terrace overlooking the latest generation synthetic all weather pitches. We felt it was important to give the footballers their own space to run off steam, whilst benefiting from the overall attraction of the Sports Park” said Chris Bennett.
The Central Hub provides the core activity centre for The Sports Park. The space is available for large indoor activities and complimentary smaller specialist operations aimed at providing a mix that will appeal to individuals and families alike. The central glazed atrium provides a focal point to meet friends and family members, making the most of the different facilities, to enjoy the “alfresco” style catering.
“At up to 54,000sqft we have an opportunity to provide purpose built space for large indoor sport & leisure activities that operators can’t find elsewhere on Merseyside” added Jonathan Snellgrove.
The Play the World Golf Course will be the only par 3 course on Merseyside and takes its inspiration from some of the most famous golf holes in the world. Open to the public on a pay and play basis, the course will prove popular with experienced and novice golfers looking to enjoy a round of golf in an hour.
The course will be built to USGA Specification and feature 2 lakes. A huge putting green and crazy golf course will reinforce the family friendly Sports Park concept and the dedicated clubhouse will provide for even more social activities.
Golf architect Bruce Weller, the designer of the course, said, “It has been great to be involved in this project which I think will fill a much needed gap in Merseyside’s golf provision. I have taken my inspiration from the general layout and landscaping of famous Links Courses in America and UK, with the inclusion of The Angling Lake allowing me to bring water into play on 2 holes”.
To Mr J Nelson West Lancashire Borough Council re 2011/0787/FUL. On 21st August 2015 you wrote of the Beacon Park Golf Course developments that “Council planning officers and officers from the Environment Agency both undertake monitoring functions in relation to the site. The planning officers in relation to the general conditions under the planning approval and the Environment Agency in relation to the permit and licence for Oaklands Leisure Limited [Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd] for the importation of materials on to the site”.
You also wrote “I am not aware of the number of sites visits from planning officers however the officer from the Environment Agency dealing with this site has visited on 4 occasions and maintain contact with the licensed operator Oaklands Leisure [sic] regarding permits, deliveries and improvement letters. The Environment Agency issued an improvement letter in July 2014 in relation to site access controls and wheel washing facilities. They have not issued any other improvement letters; the operators for the land profiling and infill works, Oaklands Leisure [sic] have a requirement to undertake and provide evidence of site investigations, monitoring and bore hole samples prior to the surrender of the operators permit being returned to the Environment Agency”.
And you wrote “The remodelling of the course is undertaken under the lease and licence agreement with West Lancashire Community Leisure Limited”.
So we asked WLBC “Would you now be kind enough to release to me details of any and all meetings including dates, minutes, and or reports you or any other officer of West Lancashire Borough Council and or West Lancashire Community Leisure Limited has held with Jonathan Russell Snellgrove of 22 Rockery Lane Leeds LS18 5AS the applicant and director of Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd for the “Partial remodelling of existing golf course and driving range and creation of nine hole golf course dated 12/12/2011”?
“Dear Mr Tilleray. Thank you for writing to me in respect of FoI Request 20107/112 in which you inform me that John Nelson, Deputy Director of Leisure and Wellbeing for the West Lancashire Borough Council, DID meet Jonathan Russell Snellgrove of 22 Rockery Lane, Leeds LS18 the Director of Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd which company is the major financial beneficiary of the enormous landfill operation at Beacon Park Golf Course.
“In your Review Findings you state YOU “can find no evidence of any written or recorded dates, minutes or reports from any meeting with officers and Mr Snellgrove in relation to the “potential remodelling work”s at Beacon Park Golf Course”.
“But you CAN advise that “Mr Nelson recalls a recent on-site meeting with Mr Snaylam from Serco/West Lancashire County Leisure Ltd (perhaps you meant West Lancashire Community Leisure Ltd?) regarding the re-modelling works at which Mr Snellgrove was in attendance but after introductions took no part in the meeting. There are no minutes or reports produced as a result of that on-site meeting”.
“I’m sorry to appear pedantic about this matter which is extremely important to residents and council tax payers of West Lancashire, but your answer in your “Review Findings” paragraph 1 is directly contradicted by your answer in paragraph 2, as the meeting you DO mention was “regarding the re-modelling works”. Isn’t what Mr Nelson tells you recorded by you as evidence?
“Which paragraph do you prefer me, or the Information Commissioner, to believe? As for Mr Snellgrove being “in attendance” but “took no part in the meeting” would you be kind enough to ascertain what his role was in the “on-site” part of it? I’m sure Mr Nelson can recall if Mr Snellgrove expressed an opinion about the landfill, even if it was hearsay between Mr Snaylam and Mr Snellgrove since the meeting was about “the re-modelling works”?
“In view of the contradictions I have pointed out might you now need to re-consider your up-holding of the FoI response from Mr Nelson?”
As for the Liverpool/Knowsley connections we have
As is well known, Part 1 of the Local Government Act 1999 (“LGA 1999”) relates to “Best Value”. Section 3 imposes the general duty. Section 3(1) provides that a “best value authority” must make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. As Underhill LJ observed in R (Nash) v Barnet LBC  EWHC 1067 (Admin),  LGR 515, at paragraph 69(1), the core subject matter of the substantive best value duty is “the way in which” the authority’s functions are exercised; and that is “very general language” which connotes high-level choices about how, as a matter of principle and approach, the authority goes about performing its functions.
Sections 10-15 inclusive of LGA 1999 relate to best value inspections. Section 10(1) authorises the Secretary of State (“the SoS”) to appoint a person to carry out an inspection of a specified best value authority’s “compliance” with the requirements of Part 1 of LGA 1999 in relation to specified functions. Section 11 sets out the Inspector’s powers and duties. Section 13 relates to Reports. Section 15 gives the SoS further powers.
Pursuant to Section 10, the SoS decided that best value inspection should be carried out in the case of Tower Hamlets LBC. On 14 November 2014 an attempt by the authority to bring a judicial review challenge against the SoS failed. Goss J ruled that detailed reasons were not required, especially in the context of confidential material that had been received and where the authority already knew what the issues were and could not credibly claim to be in the dark.
The Beacon Park Golf Course, despite its current dereliction, is still a best value asset of WLBC. For it to have been put into the hands of those responsible for its dereliction requires legal review.