Category: BeaconParkGolfCourseWatch

Serco In Further Breach Of Beacon Park Golf Course Planning Permission

Serco a law unto themselves?

The Serco Leisure Operating Ltd/Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd landfill fiasco at Beacon Park Golf Course

shows further disdain to WLBC by yet another non-compliance with a required planning condition.

There has been no published response to a binding order, that “Within one month of the date of this permission details of the date of commencement and schedule for completion of the works shall be submitted to the Local Planning Authority for approval”. 

An email to John Harrison at WLBC Development states

“I refer to the ongoing saga of the Beacon Park Golf Course development and the most recent recorded permission signed by yourself, “Dated: 11 January 2019”

“In respect of application number 2018/1164/FUL received on 5 November 2018 and in pursuance of its powers under the above-mentioned Act and Order, West Lancashire Borough Council as Local Planning Authority, having considered your application, hereby grants permission for: Remodeling of driving range at Beacon Park Golf Centre to create a Foot Golf course, remodeling of 1st hole green, 2nd hole tees, creation of mounding and re-profiling of ground adjacent to 1st fairway, remodeling of ground between 1st and 18th holes and associated landscaping. at: Beacon Park Golf Centre, Beacon Lane, Dalton, Wigan

“Subject to the Conditions (and Reasons for those Conditions)

listed on the attached sheet.

“2. Within one month of the date of this permission details of the date of commencement and schedule for completion of the works shall be submitted to the Local Planning Authority for approval. The works shall take place in accordance with the agreed schedule unless otherwise agreed in writing with the Local Planning Authority”.

“Has WLBC received the required schedule but not published it, as it is not included in the published case documents? If not, what action will now be taken?”

Perhaps it is all down to a lack of interest or urgency by Serco? After all, the landfill saga is as bad a breach of planning consent as you might see in West Lancashire. The Serco Contracts Manager wrote to Rosie Cooper date 31 January 2019 that “Serco are now starting the procurement process and have produced a tender document that is currently out to a number of contractors”. 

CONGU

He also stated “We have booked the course to be re-measured as required by CONGU regulations and this is scheduled for 19th February”.

The only handicap to playing on the once beautiful Beacon Park Golf Course

is Serco, as it destroys the entire first fairway by moving excess illegal landfill there off the old driving range

and re-vamping the 18th hole too. 

Councillor Losing His Briefs And Serco So Far?

Is Serco “As guilty in 2019 as was claimed back in 2008?” In 2008 Labour Cllr Paul Cotterill  wrote “I reported recently on my concerns that Serco may be being quietly lined up, under the cover of the ‘shared services’ agenda, to deliver other West Lancashire District Council services, despite its failures in delivering the ones its got a contract for already.

“So I asked for a briefing, as is my right (or so I thought) as Shadow Portfolio Holder Services for Community Services (including leisure services, parks and open spaces etc). I have been told, twice (well I wrote twice to ask), politely but firmly, that this is not possible, and that I will have to get any news I do get from the Labour group leader, who is allowed to meet the Chief Executive. That might happen next week when the Chief Executive returns from holidays.

“So is the Conservative-controlled Council hiding something? Is it scared I might do something awful like tell people what’s going on in good time for them to take a view? I couldn’t possibly say. I’ve not been briefed”. 

 Cllr Cotterill, Shadow Portfolio Holder, Leisure Services, had published “A Labour Review, an Interim report to the Leader of West Lancashire Labour Group of District Councillors”. Below we publish parts of the report that seem relevant to Serco Leisure Operating Ltd in 2019.

SERCO SO FAR
A Labour review
Interim report to the Leader of West Lancashire Labour Group of District Councillors

Executive summary

Paul Cotterill
Shadow Portfolio Holder, Leisure Services
January 2008

“This is an interim report, made to the leader of West Lancashire Labour Group of councillors but presented publicly for comment and further input, on the performance of SERCO Leisure Ltd (hereafter SERCO) in the delivery of leisure services at five wet and dry facilities in West Lancashire. It identifies a number of key failures and weaknesses in SERCO’s delivery of the contract, in West Lancashire District Council’s initial contracting arrangements, and the capacity of West Lancashire Leisure Trust, established expressly to manage the SERCO contract, to fulfil that function.

“SERCO has provided misleading analyses of its proposed price increases, whether by fault or by design. Actual percentage increases have been higher than the figure provided by SERCO. In 2006, the actual average price rise was around 9.24% rather than the 4.54% rise claimed by SERCO and accepted by West Lancashire Leisure Trust. Price rises for individuals, as distinct from those for other public organisations, may have been as high as 14% in the same year. Poor data provision means that price rises in 2005 cannot yet be adequately assessed.

“While SERCO and the District Council have made claims about the success of the service on the basis of growing patronage (take up) between 2005 and 2007, the overall growth figure conceals quite alarming disparities. While use has grown in better off areas, it has slumped in the lower income area of Skelmersdale. This is a dangerous pattern to have emerged so early in the contract, especially given the cumulative and long standing nature of negative lifestyle changes.

“Fundamentally, there is a great risk that the people of West Lancashire will be failed by the operations of the contract with SERCO. In narrow terms this is because of the poor initial establishment and consequent monitoring of the contract with SERCO, but ultimately this poor contracting has its roots in a neo-liberal political philosophy unsuited to modern, responsible local government which seeks to ensure the well-being of the whole community”.

“I’ve received an invitation”

Also in 2008 Cllr Cotterill wrote “I’ve received an ‘invitation’ from the West Lancashire District Council Chief Executive to meet himself and the District Solicitor to “discuss issues relating to the press release which you issued on SERCO Leisure Service.” The press release included data analysis and the report that he produced on Serco Leisure Ltd’s operations in West Lancashire since ‘outsourcing’ by the Conservatives in 2005. The Council went to some lengths to ensure that the report was not distributed through its own channels, and the local press did its best to ignore the detail of the findings, preferring a headline to say that ‘families can’t afford to keep fit’ rather than focusing on what I suggest is a strategy of excluding of low income people.

“Now, the Chief Executive is not a bloke who goes around seeking urgent meetings with scruffy opposition councillors if he doesn’t need to, and especially not with his lawyer present. So something must be up, especially as the press release is four months old now. I know the Audit Commission took an interest in the findings when I sent them, and I know the auditor has been in the Council recently, so are the big guns coming out to make sure it doesn’t all get just a little bit too public for them? Are Serco getting a little bit worried and banging their corporate fist? We’ll see next Thursday when I go and meet them”.

“I duly went along to see the Council offices the other day to see what was up. They advised me that: a) my press release in March, which suggested the Audit Commission was ‘closing in’ on the ‘scandal’ that is Serco’s delivery of leisure services in West Lancashire, was a little bit close to the wire; b) Serco might have looked to take legal action against me for the original report on their activities, and that I should be careful in future.

“The implication in the latter advice was that Serco just hadn’t feel it important enough to pursue, or were feeling kindly towards me. Of course, just as valid a reason for Serco not chasing me is that the report is an accurate assessment of the misleading data on price increase averages (I’ve never said that this is purposeful), and more generally their use of public funds in a way that promotes social inequality. Another reason may be they’ve never bothered to read it!

“I am of course grateful to the Chief Executive and the District Solicitor for what are obviously well meaning attempts to protect me from myself, they are both patently decent people and I am not suggesting that their view of my press release (they didn’t mention the actual report) is anything other than duly cautious.

Incorrect use of public money by Serco

“However, I stand by my report and will be continuing to investigate and shed as much light as possible on what I believe is incorrect use of public money by Serco, and ineffective governance by the West Lancashire Leisure Trust”.

Serco so far?

In 2019 Serco Leisure Operating Ltd has breached planning conditions at the Beacon Park Golf Course, has blamed Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd  its development partner, has received £183,864 royalties revenue that should be for the West Lancashire Leisure Trust to allocate on local health initiatives, and is responsible for the loss of competitive golf for Senior Golfers for at least a year. 2019 proves Cllr Cotterill was right to challenge Serco in 2008. And we will probably still write similar reports in 2020 unless Serco meets the commitment that Rupert Soames has made to West Lancashire Borough Council “To invest this money (£183,864) at Beacon Park Golf Course”.

Dodgy Serco Leisure Golf Contracts

The history of Serco’s  propensity for dodgy dealing during the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill “development” is well known. It spread to the annual contracts of members which changed without disclosure of the terms and conditions. So inevitably we used the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to bring light into the darkness? Wrong, the glow of transparency turned into the fog of denial. Read the exchanges below.

3 December 2018 via WhatDoTheyKnow

“Serco Leisure has written to Beacon Park Golf Club members advising them of changes to membership contract terms and conditions to take effect from 1 December 2018. Members have been referred to a westlancsleisure.com website which does not respond and the terms and conditions are still unknown. Will WLBC Leisure Department intervene to publish the new terms and conditions on the WLBC website rather than expect golf club members to rely on Serco Leisure for this vital information?”

21 December 2018 WLBC response

“Thank you for your email of 4th December 2018 where you requested information on the changes to terms and conditions to membership contract terms at Beacon Park Golf Club being instigated by SERCO Leisure. Unfortunately the Council does not hold this information and I would suggest that you contact SERCO Leisure direct for further details. If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review…etc and ask Simon Burnett, Deputy Director of Leisure and Wellbeing”.

Also 21 December 2018

“I am writing to request an internal review of West Lancashire District Council’s handling of my FOI request ‘Beacon Park Golf Course Membership Contracts’. Your response refers me to Serco for the answer in respect of Beacon Park Golf Course membership contracts. Serco is merely a leisure provider for West Lancashire Borough Council. Leisure policies including golf for Senior members are the responsibility of the Borough that pays Serco an annual contract of circa £1million for efficient and affordable leisure facilities for residents of West Lancashire. Please review your response accordingly”.

23 January 2019 WLBC Response

“Freedom of Information Request 2018 / 885 – Request for Internal Review. In response to your email dated 21st December 2018 which requests an internal review of West Lancashire District Council’s handling of your FOI request entitled ‘Beacon Park Golf Course Membership Contracts’ ref 2018 / 885. In completing this review I have referred to your original request along with the response provided by Steve Kent on 21st December 2018. In your original request you made reference to “changes to membership contract terms and conditions to take effect from 1 December 2018”. You continued to ask “will WLBC Leisure Department intervene to publish the new terms and conditions on the WLBC website rather than expect golf club members to rely on Serco Leisure for this vital information”.

“You were subsequently advised by Steve Kent that the Council does not hold the information referred to in your request, namely “changes to membership contract terms and conditions to take effect from 1 December 2018”. The Freedom of Information Act only relates to recorded information held by public authorities. WLBC does not hold the information you have requested and therefore it is not possible to publish the terms and conditions on the WLBC website. Furthermore the membership contract terms and conditions form an agreement between the applicant and Serco and WLBC are not party to this agreement. It would therefore not be appropriate to publish this information on the WLBC website. For the reasons stated above I am satisfied that your request for information was handled correctly. In order to assist you and having discussed this matter with Serco, I can confirm that membership new terms and conditions are available via the following link:-https://www.westlancsleisure.com

24 January 2019 to WLBC

“Thank you for this reply, which is the usual statement, that WLBC isn’t a party to anything between individual applicants for annual golf course Membership Contracts and Serco. Of course it isn’t. But being told to ask Serco anything is unlikely to lead to a truthful answer. Serco has breached planning conditions on the Beacon Park Golf Course. Why should a WLBC council tax payer trust Serco about contracts when it didn’t keep its own planning conditions, which itself is a form of contract? As for WLBC “not holding the information”, how convenient is that? Nevertheless, I realise the matter is concluded”.

Beacon Park Golf Course Decisions Extend Course Disruption

The 5 years of disruption for the financial benefit of private developers Serco Leisure Operating Ltd and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd at the expense of council tax have been extended by planning permissions granted by the WLBC Planning Committee last night.

2018/1158/FUL-Beacon Park Golf Centre Beacon Lane Dalton Wigan Lancashire WN8 7RU
Variation of Condition No. 1 of planning permission 2016/0040/FUL to vary the location, site and cross section plans submitted with the original application to regularise the as built land levels, landscaping and development layout of the nine hole short course . Replacement of plan reference 1115.11 received by the Local Planning Authority on 13th July 2011 with plan references 1115.11 Rev B and 1115.21. Replacement of plan reference 1115.15 received by the Local Planning Authority on 13th July 2011 with plan reference 1115.X6 cross sections. Approval of new plan reference 1115.27 Par 3 Landscaping. All other plans to remain as per the decision notice. Approved with conditions.

2018/1164/FUL-Beacon Park Golf Centre Beacon Lane Dalton Wigan Lancashire WN8 7RU
Remodeling of driving range  at Beacon Park Golf Centre to create a Foot Golf course, remodeling of 1st hole green, 2nd hole tees, creation of mounding and re-profiling of ground adjacent to 1st fairway, remodeling of ground between 1st and 18th holes and associated landscaping. Approved with conditions.

Below is a letter from Serco, in which they describe the commitments required to correct the appalling state the new 9hole heap and the so-called footgolf areas are in. Had the original developments been undertaken by professional golf course creators instead of cowboy companies none of what follows would be necessary. 

Letter from Serco Business

I can confirm that Serco’s commitment to maintain a viable and playable golf course at Beacon Park remains unchanged. Firstly, I would like to reiterate a number of commitments we have made regarding the golf course at Beacon Park, we will:

• proactively manage the contractors working on site
• maintain, throughout the works period, a viable 18 hole golf course
• work (weather permitting) as quickly as possible with the minimum of disruption
• fence the entire work area and shroud the fencing with appropriate material
• maintain sufficient car parking spaces
• control all vehicle movement outside of the construction fence using manned gates
• minimise road and community disruption
• lay track way to protect the 1st Fairway
• introduce additional drainage to the 1st
• allow sufficient growing time and top soil to enable and promote growth
• create a first green to a recognised specification
• create a fit for purpose foot golf offering
• complete, and thereafter, manage the landscape in accordance with a professional plan
• keep all stake holders informed of progress.

Additionally, we agreed that the course would be re-measured by Congu and a new stroke index applied due to the change in layout during the proposed works program. This was discussed with the Senior’s Captain and we have already approached Congu to book the appropriate re­- measuring of the course. We will liaise with the golf club in order to apply a new stroke index.
Once this is confirmed, we will reprint the scorecards, thus enabling the members to maintain their handicap.

As to the statement regarding the course being “short by 500 yards of the required distance”, there is no such required distance. As long as the course is measured and a stroke index applied, the course remains viable.

We have done all we can to ensure our Senior Golfers team could continue competing in the South West Lancashire Seniors League, but the final decision on that issue was always going to come from the league. We offered to present at the league meeting, however the Senior Golfers team declined this offer.

Furthermore, at the recent meeting with the Senior Golfers Team Captain, a number of positive initiatives were discussed including a member “artisan” system, where members would assist the greens team on certain aspects of the course. There would also be a future combined promotion to attract past members back to the club in addition to the very strong 50% off membership offer. In addition to this, a number of the clubs in the league have agreed to play both home and away “friendly” matches with the Seniors. However, not all clubs have agreed to this.

Finally the “residual state of the course” is in fact regarded as being good, as can be seen from the comment below from England Golf after a recent visit here.

“As for my feedback when playing a few holes, I enjoyed the course and think it is in good condition. The holes I played offer variety and will appeal to all level of golfer. The fairways and greens are well maintained and not as wet as one would expect at this time of year.”

I trust this answers your queries, but if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

West Lancashire Community Leisure Ltd. No.5316277. Serco Public Registered Charity No 1168175

Planning Farce Follows Incompetence At The Beacon Park Golf Course

In December 2018 the appalling mismanagement of the Beacon Park Golf Course “landfill developments”  by Serco Leisure Operating Ltd and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd, undertaken with the tacit collusion of the West Lancashire Borough Council Leisure Services from 2012 to date, led to the expulsion of the Senior Golfers from local competitive golf. The WLBC Chief Executive knew all of this in December, having been told “We, residents of West Lancashire, now know legal action was taken against Serco Leisure Operating Ltd for planning breaches, and further action is contemplated, as the Borough Solicitor has assured me. But the matters of accountancy for, and compliance with, the entire financial arrangements mentioned above remain hidden from council tax payers. Beacon Park Golf Course is publicly owned. Its users, particularly Senior Golf Club members , now banned from local competitive golf, suffer simply because of the total disregard of the planning consents. How WLBC can accept this while the issues of landfill royalties and legal accountancy for them are denied to the public is beyond comprehension”.

The response was simply an inclusion in 2018/1158/FUL “Notwithstanding that an extant permission is in place for significant works to the golf course, I am aware of concerns that the proposals may result in lengthy disruptions to course users with implications for competitive golf and handicaps. The proposed works will inevitably result in disruption during an interim halt to use of the first fairway, green and second tees to users as the works take place. The use of temporary tees and greens, and reconfiguration of some of the remaining holes will ensure that the Council of National Golf Unions standards will be met for course length and par thereby ensuring continuous eligibility to host competitions and maintain handicaps”.

The Chief Executive was advised “This claim is patently untrue as the so-called continuous eligibility to host competitions has already been forfeited by the expulsion of the BPGC Senior Golf Club by the local competitive league. It would seem unworthy of WLBC to claim otherwise, the expulsion has been in place since the Senior Golf Club Captain was unable to assure the League of the standards they required of BPGC”.

Yesterday the WLBC Planning Department issued a “Late Information” memo relating to the Planning Committee agenda Report No. 2, to be considered tonight at the Planning Committee.

“REPORT NO. 2 – BEACON PARK GOLF CENTRE, BEACON LANE, DALTON 
Director of Leisure and Environment (21.12.18) – no objections; request conditions to protect local amenity during works including in relation to vehicle routing, delivery/waiting times, restricted times of operations, noise levels, dust and mud suppression measures.

“LCC Highways (03.01.19) – no objections to the principle of remodelling the golf driving range, but have concerns regarding HGV traffic movement associated with the importation of final top dressing material and potential routing of delivery vehicles. LCC recommend the reopening of the former haulage access direct onto the A577 Stannanought Road to the west.

“A third party representation has been received advising that the commentary at paragraph 10.10 relating to the continued suitability of the course for competition golf is incorrect as BPGC Senior Golf Club has been eliminated from their league since assurances to the course standard could not be given by the club.

“OBSERVATIONS OF DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT AND REGENERATION
As stated in paragraph 10.7 of the report, the routing of any vehicle deliveries to the site is reserved for agreement under the terms of proposed Condition 4.

“The following additional conditions are proposed to reflect the concerns of the Director of Leisure and Environment and the restrictions imposed on the preceding permissions for the site in order to protect local amenity in the vicinity of the golf course:

“Condition 8 No operations on the site shall be carried out except between the hours of 08:00 and 17:00 Monday to Friday and 08:00 and 13:00 Saturdays and no vehicles associated with the importation of materials onto the site shall enter or leave the site and no waiting shall take place except between the stated hours. No operations of any nature shall take place on Sunday or Public Bank Holidays without the prior written approval of the Local Planning Authority.

“Reason To safeguard the amenity of nearby residential properties and the area generally and so comply with the provisions of Policy GN3 in the adopted West Lancashire Local Plan 2012-2027 Development Plan Document.

“Condition 9 The noise emitted from the site’s plant, equipment and machinery shall not exceed 55dB(A)LAeq, 1hr free field at the boundary of any nearby residential dwelling during the allowed operational hours.

“Reason To safeguard the amenity of nearby residential properties and the area generally and so comply with the provisions of Policy GN3 in the adopted West Lancashire Local Plan 2012-2027 Development Plan Document.

“With respect to the Senior Club competition league, discussions with Mr Collins (Senior Captain) advise that the club may be reinstated if works take place quickly and the course can be re-measured and a temporary green provided to standard before the season starts (first fixture 11 April 2019). The club is currently scheduled within the league season fixtures as ‘friendlies’ but may be fully reinstated if those works can proceed in time”.

Just two years ago Councillor Aldridge  on behalf of the Labour Group put in a Motion to Council. It was “Resolved; that this council recognises the difficulties facing the Beacon Park Golf Club and its members during the course developments and congratulates them on their success in winning the South Lancashire Municipal Golf Clubs Association Team Championship held at Bowring Park Golf Course. Eight teams of fourteen players each competed for the trophy which can be seen at the Beacon Park Golf Clubhouse. It is a splendid success for Captain Tom Jackson, for his team, and for West Lancashire”.

The current farce does not respect those who have earned it.

Beacon Park Golf Course Cock-Up Cover-Up

WLBC  has produced its proposed answers to its grotesque failure to control the excessive and illegal landfill-for-royalty planning debacle. Giving Serco Leisure Operating Limited (SLOL) and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd (OGLL) the opportunity to rip-off the council tax payers who own the course is now seen as leading to more years of misery especially for Senior Golfers  at BPGC. It’s cock-up is now being covered-up!

In May 2018 WLBC publicly stated to the press“Material has been deposited in three locations on the golf course, the former driving range, alongside the first fairway, and the new nine-hole golf course. While the total amount of material deposited on the golf course is within the limits allowed under the planning consent, larger amounts of material have been deposited than shown on the approved plans in the areas in question. It is only in the case of the former driving range , however, that the non-compliance with the approved plan is deemed so significant as to warrant the council taking action. During the deposit of material, the council contacted the Environment Agency to ensure that proper monitoring of the type of material being brought on to the site was in place. So why is action now having been forced on WLBC to correct excessive dumping on the 9hole heap [2018/1158/FUL]?

There is still no apparent intention for penalties against SLOL and OGLL for their illegal operation of the golf course development. The two companies are the only apparent beneficiaries of the landfill royalty income. This application worsens that landfill royalty abuse by agreeing to retain the illegal excess material on the course.

Planning case 1 refers to application 2018/1158/FUL Beacon Park Golf Centre Beacon Lane Dalton Wigan Lancashire WN8 7RU. The application seeks to retrospectively regularise earthworks carried out to form a new short-course golf facility, which is a clear acceptance of irregular and illegal landfill activity. The site has recently been subject to works under the terms of the 2011 and 2016 permissions and has been re-profiled to form the basis of the short-hole course but currently remains unused.

The application seeks retention of increased levels on the site. This amounts to an estimated 16,000 m3 over the site giving an additional average level in the order of 0.4 m across the site, but variations appear to be less than this on the majority of the site with the bulk of additional material graded on the south-western slope of the site. In addition, the installation of gravel pathways providing access to either side of the first hole from the first tee is proposed and two herringbone drainage fields to manage surface water run-off.

“Works commenced on the Beacon Park site following the initial grant of planning permission for large scale remodelling of the golf course and adjacent land, including the importation of significant amounts of inert material. In August 2015 a complaint was received by the Council that the works were not being completed in accordance with the approved plans. Investigations found that material for the works had been brought on to this and other parts of the site however the majority of the works to the 18-hole golf course remained incomplete and three main areas were left with additional stockpiled material – the 9-hole course, the former driving range area, and a linear strip between the first fairway and Elmers Green Lane. In accordance with adopted enforcement protocols, efforts have been directed at seeking resolution with the site operator to attempt to resolve any planning harm arising. This application relates to the 9-hole course area only.

“Notwithstanding that an extant permission is in place for significant works to the golf course, I am aware of concerns that the proposals may result in lengthy disruptions to course users with implications for competitive golf and handicaps. The proposed works will inevitably result in disruption during an interim halt to use of the first fairway, green and second tees to users as the works take place. The use of temporary tees and greens, and reconfiguration of some of the remaining holes will ensure that the Council of National Golf Unions standards will be met for course length and par thereby ensuring continuous eligibility to host competitions and maintain handicaps”. This claim is patently untrue as the so-called continuous eligibility to host competitions has been forfeited by the expulsion of the BPGC Senior Golf Club by the local competitive league.

As for 2018/1164/FUL “Remodeling of driving range at Beacon Park Golf Centre to create a Foot Golf course, remodeling of 1st hole green, 2nd hole tees, creation of mounding and re-profiling of ground adjacent to 1st fairway, remodeling of ground between 1st and 18th holes and associated landscaping”. The application seeks approval of works to remove stockpiled fill  from the former golf driving range at Beacon Park Golf Centre to form a ‘foot-golf’ course on the site; to retrospectively regularise earthworks carried out  to form a linear series of landscape mounds on the southern fringe of the 18-hole course; and, seek minor amendments of previously approved enhancements to the southern part of the 18-hole course including land level increases. The existing and proposed works are considered acceptable in principle and detail in that they provide enhancements to the facilities to encourage outdoor sport and recreation whilst preserving the Green Belt and landscape qualities.

“The proposals insofar as they relate to the former driving range will reduce current levels between about – 1.0 m and + 4.2 m [almost 14 feet] (the majority of the area will see an average removal of about 3 metres [almost 10 feet] depth of material removed) to provide a relatively level playing area for foot-golf (aside from localised mound profiling for visual interest and course enhancement). The western side of the land will see a reduced incline from the current situation with a linear mound and low fencing to limit ball run-off. Gated access to the lower part of the western slope will be provided and facilitated by 4 runs of timber steps. The site will be laid out to provide a nine hole course with tees, greens and landscaping.

“A significant proportion of the works are relatively small amendments to the previously approved schemes. The new linear string of mounds to the southern extent of the 18 hole course assimilate well and help define this limit of the course. The construction of the 9hole foot golf course on the former driving range  will provide a new facility aimed at introducing young and older users alike into a relatively new recreational activity whilst complimenting the existing facilities. The proposals are in general compliance with the WLLP and NPPF and therefore planning permission should be granted”. 

We are certain the WLBC Planning Committee will agree. To do otherwise would be an admission of guilt of neglect, dereliction of duty, no shining the light on whose pockets the landfill royalty cash filled, Serco absolved of other than minor planning breaches. But the stench will linger over the Beacon Park golf Course for a long time, and for the Senior Golf Club Members their expulsion from competitive golf means they are the only victims of the whole debacle. Well done WLBC!

Sercockup And A Rotten Borough

As many readers know, Private Eye  publishes a “Rotten Boroughs” feature. West Lancashire has had a “mention in despatches” for its elected councillor late payments of council tax, having to send reminders to 10 councillors, and one being barred from voting.

But WLBC itself is no paragon of virtue. Its outsourcing relationships for leasing the Beacon Park Golf Course (BPGC) have been embroiled in scandal involving non-payment of VAT. First, around late 1990/2000, came DCT Leisure Ltd, much admired for its £25,000 a year donation to WLBC in return for its £1 a year lease. DCT Leisure Ltd expired owing unsecured creditors Former Employee tribunal Claim £11,551; Employee Redundancy £4,515; VAT £55,000. There was no due diligence ever applied to DCT by WLBC which allowed this sorry state of affairs to exist. WLBC stuck its head in the sand and did nothing.

In 2004 came Serco, demanding and receiving a golden hullo of £610,000 to comfort their introduction as the Council’s preferred leisure services partners on a 15 year contract worth annually circa £1million. And with the demise of DCT Leisure in 2011 the BPGC £1 a year lease passed over to Serco Leisure Operating Ltd (SLOL) too.

Also passed over from DCT was a landfill dumping “development of BPGC” with Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd, which became the chosen partner of SLOL. Obviously oblivious to connections to VAT avoidance, no due diligence checks done by either SLOL or WLBC, of the director of Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd who had breached planning conditions, for which his company was prosecuted by Knowsley Council, convicted and fined £9,000. As UK Sports Parks Ltd, and previously Cottage Fields Sports Park Limited, the principle trading address being 20, Rockery Road, Leeds LS18 5AS. The unpaid VAT was £100,000.

The same name and address on a BPGC planning development application 2016/0040/FUL was, you’ve guessed it, Oakland Golf And Leisure Limited, 20 Rockery Road Leeds LS18 5AS. Not, as you have realised, SLOL. Approved 22 February 2016, by the Director of Planning WLBC.

Moving on to the landfill royalty scandal, from 23,375 HGV loads of landfill each of 8m3 per delivery, in fact the excess material brought more than 23,375 loads, fortunately delivering more royalty payments. Lovely jubbly!

Time elapsed on the Breach of Planning Condition Notice E/2015/0223/BCN issued to Serco Leisure Operating Ltd to “Remove all excess material placed on the land hatched black on attached Plan 2 dated 11 May 2018 etc” and signed by the Borough Solicitor. They didn’t, and now BPGC faces another 14 months minimum of disruption. Who cares?