Category Archives: BeaconParkGolfCourseWatch

Half-Baked Annual Report From Serco Leisure

West Lancashire Leisure Annual Report. To consider a Presentation from the Board Chairman (WLCL) and Contracts Manager (SERCO).

Note the word “Annual” ie “Occurring once every year”. So why isn’t there a full annual report for the Beacon Park Golf Course? Why is it so selective? It is half-baked and selective to avoid awkward questions about huge illegal landfill and hidden royalties. 

“All sites closed on 20th March 2020 as per the government announcement on that day”. But the government closure didn’t include essential maintenance works.

We asked “What concerns did Serco Leisure Operating Ltd have before closing the Beacon Park Golf Course (BPGC)?” Their Head of Leisure has written “We closed our West Lancashire leisure facilities on 20th March including BPGC. Naturally during this time with no revenue we are playing close attention to our cost base to minimise our losses. I can confirm that we intend to re-commence at Beacon Park from Monday 20th April albeit on a reduced basis, so as not to encourage social gathering or unauthorised usage of the course”.

Beacon Park Golf Course re-opened on Thursday 14th May 2020. Serco received a letter from Senior Golfers  “I am [we are] writing to you on behalf of ALL the members of Beacon Park Golf Club. It is with great sadness and some confusion that you have ceased daily maintenance of the course at BPGC.

“There has been a directive from English Golf to say that it is OK for greenkeepers to continue to work providing they keep to ‘Social Distancing’ regulations. Some courses DID ‘Lay Off’ green keeping staff for a short period but since the directive from English Golf (which has received Government approval) all courses in the area have allowed them to return.

“SERCO’s current directive NOT to allow greenkeepers to carry out daily and essential maintenance at BPGC is unique. It will also prove damaging to the course in the long term. Local greenkeepers are relishing an opportunity to carry out pre-season work without the interruption of Golfers. Gathurst, Sherdley Park, Dean Wood, Houghwood, Kirkby, Allerton, Golf Clubs are all allowing greenkeepers to work and are taking advantage of the situation. This “March”  is a picture of one green keeper working at Sherdley Park. [On his own, nobody to infect or be infected].

“If your current policy of non-maintenance were to continue for any lengthy period of time it would be impossible to play golf at BPGC when the ‘Lock Down’ is finished. Surely this is not good economics!! [Unlike the landfill royalties/VAT “economics” still shrouded in mystery as to their whereabouts!]

“The membership asks would you please reverse your current policy for Beacon Park and allow the green keepers to continue working. I can assure you that as soon the Corona Virus has finished there will be many people rushing to return. If Beacon is not fit to play then many members will leave and go and play elsewhere.

“Many Thanks, Mal Hayman (Club Captain) above right, Mike Stokes (Seniors Captain), Tommy Jackson (Club President), above left , inspecting the creative golf course construction left by Serco/Oakland Golf & Leisure Ltd”.

 
WLBC stated “In answer to your specific queries a) what maintenance work is being undertaken at the BPGC. The course is closed and as per the governments advice all non essential work has ceased, this includes all maintenance work at the Beacon, other than statutory compliance works. b) are the green keepers working normally? The health, safety and welfare of the community, our staff and customers is our main concern – therefore in line with government advice the greenkeepers are not working. c ) are the greens, fairways and roughs being cut and professionally maintained. As stated previously all non-essential work has ceased.

And there you have it. WLBC declared in writing that the Beacon Park Golf Course greens, fairways and roughs that should be maintained are all non-essential work. You might draw the conclusion that the desecration of Beacon Park that started with massive and ultimately illegal landfill, all bungled under the banner of greed and ” un-monitored planning permission” will be completed within the next few months.  But not so. 

“We commenced a re-profiling of the previous works at Beacon in April 2019 and the works had been going well, the wet weather in September 2019 caused the works to pause and were about to restart in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Consequently the works didn’t restart until August 2020.

22 May “MEMBERS RELIEF AS GOLF RESTARTS AT HAIGH   Not Mid-June as Serco claimed! “As most of you will be aware the course will reopen tomorrow at 0800, but with restrictions. There will be no more turn up and play for the foreseeable future. Golf can only be booked by using howdidio for club members and the the BRS booking system when all the tee times have been filled on howdidido. The BRS booking opens five days before for members & season ticket holders and three days before for visitors. Phone bookings will not be taken whilst the restrictions are in place”.



What Are Those Mounds Of Earth?

What, these? 

In a remarkable exchange of questions and answers at the recent Corporate and Environmental Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Julian Finch

Labour Digmoor (Vice-Chair at the previous meeting) who was elected in May 2019, spoke about “seeing mounds of earth” at the Beacon Park Golf Course. Well, you can hardly miss them?

But the whole matter was astonishing as, having listened to the Leisure Report being given by the Chairman of West Lancashire Community Leisure Ltd and the Serco Area Manager, Cllr Finch asked about “Something Mark said about re-profiling land, what does that mean, I don’t understand”.

To which Mr Snaylam replied “In 2012 we inherited a contract for landfill imported, it’s taking some time to move some from one area to another for the original planning permission final phase, more spaced out”.

But Serco took a year from 2011 to assess the viability of the Beacon Park Golf Course and agreed to the 2012 contract them-selves. It’s all in WLBC minutes. As John Nelson stated, the work didn’t start until 2013 and has been entirely the responsibility of Serco to date. Any breaches of planning permissions have been by Serco. It was Serco served on 16th May 2018 by the then WLBC Solicitor Terry Broderick with a “Breach of Condition Notice Reference E/2015/0223/BCN” against Serco Leisure Operating Limited that required compliance with stated conditions for the land at Beacon Park Golf Centre”.

Time for compliance, six months beginning on the day on which this notice is served on you. Dated 6th May 2018. So why did Serco admit to starting compliance in April 2019 and why did, and does, WLBC allow the Serco criminal offence to go on without punishment? Somebody knows but nobody is telling!

The published report by Serco made available to the Committee stated “We commenced a re-profiling of the previous works at Beacon in April 2019 and the works had been going well, the wet weather in September 2019 caused the works to pause and were about to restart in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Consequently the works didn’t restart until August 2020”.

2013 start, now 2021 end forecast. Would you buy a used car off these people?

History Of Beacon Park Golf Course From Google Earth

Today we reveal the undisputed history of the publicly owned Beacon Park Golf Course areas that became landfilled royalty earners for the developers, Serco and Oakland Golf & Leisure Ltd, as recorded from Google Earth.  The pictures range from 2005, when Serco Leisure Operating Ltd became leisure providers for WLBC, to 2018, with the ruined driving range/footgolf dream, and the field that is mooted to become a 9Hole junior course, originally to be open in 2015, now in 2021 and waiting!  

The Life And Times Of A Golf Course Head Greenkeeper

Life must be tough for the Head Greenkeeper at the Beacon Park Golf Course, with its aura of landfill desecration and neglect. Billy Merritt is Head Greenkeeper, and he has a fine reputation, regularly involved as voluntary greenkeeper at Open tournaments.

In a “What Am I Really Thinking” article he remarked on “When I See Unrepaired Pitch Marks! We get lots of pitch marks on our course with it being a pay and play and, to be honest, we have people practising all the time. They’re the type of people who don’t repair their pitch marks. In general, a lot of our golfers don’t. I think their attitude is ‘oh that’s the greenkeeper’s job’. Nobody likes pitch marks on the green, and divots are even worse, but we have a problem with both. Here, we just assume that people won’t repair them and that we need to do it, whether it’s pitch marks or whatever. BM

“When I See A Bunker That Hasn’t Been Raked! You can imagine what we’re like up here. We have, the same as everybody else, rakes in the bunkers and you have footmarks around the rakes. Again, we experience the same attitude; ‘it’s the greenkeeper’s job’ and we have to live with that. We’re pay and play so the course gets abused quite a lot anyway. It’s just the mentality of a pay and play golf course. BM

“We’ve got people that have little go-karts and they go under the ropes. One of the lads went over and gave them a bit of a talking to and they said ‘well, my tyres are special tyres’. It doesn’t matter how special the tyres are, there’s a reason it’s roped off. BM

“When I See A Divot That Hasn’t Been Replaced? A lot of the time they (golfers) do replace them but the birds, magpies and crows lift them up. At my previous course, we had to go round re-seeding and replacing all the divots but, in general, I think they put them back. We just accept it’s going to happen. BM

“When Golfers Expect The Greens To Be Great All Year ROUND. If you live in this country and expect that, you must be crazy. It’s just unrealistic expectations. Our climate is one of the worst things to deal with, especially in winter. The biggest stress of any greenkeeper is the weather. Our whole life revolves around the weather. If it changes, we’ve got to try and deal with it. The golf course is our baby. We look after it and we don’t like to see any abuse – no matter what it might be. We take it personally. BM”

The Beacon Park Golf Course is lucky to have the highly skilled Billy Merritt, whose loyalty throughout the landfill debacle is outstanding. He can be found at The Lodge, Beacon Park Golf Club, Beacon Lane, Dalton.

Seven Years And Counting

Holding West Lancashire Borough Council to account for a new 9 hole par 3 course and junior facilities at Beacon Park Golf Course. Landfill started on it in 2013. And soon it looked like this, picture courtesy of Google Earth.

But now in 2020 it looks like this, just last week, pictures on the ground.

       

So I asked “There are some leisure matters I wish to pursue, specifically relating to the Beacon Park Golf Course, which I visit as often as I can to keep abreast of the appalling state of the course and the out of control “developments” as they are described, on the land-filled former driving range and the supposed 9 Hole par 3 course and junior facilities.

“You will know the West Lancashire Borough Council Leisure Strategy 2015 – 2025 included a commitment for “plans to develop the leisure offer at the site and these include a new 9 hole par 3 course and junior facilities”. So will you confirm that commitment remains, and provide a timetable for completion of it, because it is currently sealed off by steel cage fencing with an instruction to keep out!

“As for the “state” of the 18 hole course itself my most recent visit to walk it was curtailed by the unusually poor state of the fairways and rough areas that were clearly neglected. Can you please confirm the current course maintenance staffing levels employed by Serco Leisure Operating Limited?

The Head of Wellbeing & Leisure Services, West Lancashire Borough Council writes “The West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust item on the Agenda of Corporate and Environmental Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Thursday 17th September 2020 was delivered in the form of a presentation rather than a report.

“The work to develop the 9 hole par 3 course and the junior facilities was initially delayed by poor weather in 2019 and, more recently, by the impact of the COVID19 pandemic. The target completion date for the work and the associated breach of condition notice is currently late summer 2021 [Taking us to 8 years and counting].

“There are currently two green-keepers who are employed to maintain the Golf Course. The Golf Course currently has 160 members”.

The follow-up to WLBC? “When was the proposed 9 Hole junior course last inspected by WLBC, by whom from WLBC, and is any such inspection report available to the public? Or is your reply to me based on Serco Leisure and or the Leisure Trust reporting to you?”

The Beacon Park Golf Course Beer Festival

It isn’t true, apparently, that Serco couldn’t run a piss-up in a brewery

because they claim they did! It was back in 2013, when they had taken over the Beacon Park Golf Course and it soon started to resemble a landfill site. And still does, because it is!

It’s got worse ever since    , but they actually ran a weekend Beer Festival and you can guess what happened? Yes, members, especially the Seniors, loved the beer and soon forgot the state of the golf course. 

Serco described the event as a “treat for Real Ale and Cider enthusiasts”. And members are still claiming its the only event Serco got right! So, the lesson seems to be, don’t go for the golf, wait for a beer festival!

The Beacon Park Golf Course 9Hole Promises

The farce of the 9Hole Junior golf course goes on. While the site is fenced off and has been since the contractors appeared after the legal notice was served on Serco Leisure Operating Ltd, it is apparent no further work will now happen.

So we have asked the WLBC Chief Operating Officer “There is no sign of any work on the new 9 Hole Course, it’s overgrown and doesn’t begin to resemble a golf course, and the Footgolf Course seems to consist of a mud heap. Would you be kind enough to confirm the dates by which both developments will be in public use?”.

Serco had proposed a surplus income share arrangement. They have not included any management fees in the cost of the operation and had agreed to absorb any losses incurred within the golf course arrangement during the contract period.

The surplus income share is based on 1/3rds (thirds) distributed equally to West Lancashire Borough Council, West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust, and Serco Leisure Operating Limited. 5.2 The income share for West Lancashire Community Leisure will be used to support their outreach for community development work providing access for community groups and schools towards events and activities.

5.3 The proposal includes investment into the golf course and facilities, reshaping of the landform to enhance existing golf holes and practice facilities and create a new 9 hole short course. Remodelled driving range outfield and target greens. Provision to enhance internal facilities in the golf club house and entrance area. The work is to be phased in over two years 2013-15 and has an estimated investment/enhancement value for the golf course of approximately £500,000.

It won’t happen, not after planning permission was awarded in 2011. It’s a complete hoax, as we have exposed, a landfill ripoff and VAT avoidance scheme. And if the course reverts back to WLBC, the council parks and gardens staff will have to do the work of green and fairway maintenance. Double funding by taxpayers for a privatised, outsourced, leisure facility! It’s criminal!

Beacon Park Golf Course Misrepresented As A Golf Course!

We recently showed the glossy

produced by Serco Business also known as Serco Leisure Operating Ltd that runs the West Lancashire Borough Council leisure facilities, currently including the Beacon Park Golf Course. It was the occasion of the Annual report to the council. 

But as is well known the Beacon Park Golf Course is a landfill site, has been for seven years, with Serco Leisure Operating Ltd under a formal and legal obligation to restore the course. Sadly, now almost two years on, that hasn’t happened. So here is a picture that is factual.

No writeup needed, just look at the picture that an honest company would, and should, have shown. Serco admit to “commencing a re-profiling of the previous works in April 2019”. The legal notice was issued in 2018. They are in breach of it. WLBC does nothing about it. Believe it or not the reprofiling included a 9Hole junior course and a Footgolf course. We will believe them when we see them! Our future pictures will show the state of affairs that WLBC tolerates from Serco. 

Serco Leisure Annual Report To WLBC

The Serco Leisure glossy annual report is available prior to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Could have been written and produced by Arthur Daley, used car salesman and spiv.

It includes this page below which claims “Since April 2019 works were going well, the wet weather in September 2019 caused the works to pause and were about to start in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Consequently the works didn’t restart until August 2020”. The report doesn’t mention the 9Hole course!

It’s about “Beacon Park” and “Beacon”. No mention of it being a golf course, but that’s reasonable considering it is an unrestored  landfill site. Below is an advert copied and adapted from a golf magazine.

It might be an experience, but enjoyable is taking the piss? It might be better simply to see the evidence