A flawed commercial proposal.

The proposals for  Whitewebbs Park – a commercially flawed and damaging proposal.

  1. A council document KD Num:4849 gives the reasons for marketing a 25 year lease for the Whitewebbs Golf Course.  The extent of the Golf Course is clearly  delimited on the maps prepared by Enfield’s Asset Information Team. There is a clear line between the golf course and the rest of Whitewebbs Park. There is no mention in  KD Num:4849 of the rest of the park.  I have not seen the justification for including the woodland area in this leasing proposal.
  2. While the golf course can be described as a commercial venture the recreational woodland can not. It is a park, just like Forty Hall, Broomfield, Arnos, Grovelands, Trent and all the others in the borough and no one is planning to privatise the management and development of these, to my knowledge.
  3. Regrettably, businesses are not geared up  to manage recreational, publicly accessible  woodland. Business in the UK is geared up for short term profits especially when working within a 25 year lease. Short term commercial benefit will always override long term  community benefit. Otherwise, there would be no need for the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, National Parks, the Forestry Commission, tree preservation orders and municipal parks. Dare one refer to what is happening on a far vaster scale in the Amazon? Whitewebbs  Park is registered by the Forestry Commission as “Ancient and semi natural woodland”
    Any company taking over Whitewebbs Woods would take out the valuable timber, calling it “thinning” or “forestry management” and leave the land to fend for itself. There are at least  25 trees in Whitewebbs marked discreetly with  blue paint. They are all tall straight oaks close to the bridleway and, therefore, accessible  by vehicle. This may be a coincidence but mature tall straight oak trees are commercially valuable. They could repeat the process in 200 years time. It takes about 50 years of careful management for deciduous woodland to start making a financial return.  On a 25 year lease  it is going to be no more than asset stripping.  Of course, some vandal might want to replace the ancient woodland with Christmas tree production.
    It may be argued that  lease conditions  will be strict but the officers and councillors responsible for drawing up these documents will probably be long gone before the lease is even half way through its life. The same could be true of the company owners / directors who agreed the deal. The lease details must be published and accessible if the park is to be protected .
  4. The Golf Course, while it is a valuable aid to  both mental and physical fitness, could be described as a business. Business advisors I have contacted tell me that a 25 year lease is too short a period for there to be sound development and long term investment. Long term capital investment is most unlikely, particularly in the uncertain world of sports facilities. Golf is  suffering more than most with many courses closing. A brief survey of  golf courses for sale in the south of England shows that they can be purchased, with full facilities such as  function rooms, dining capability, changing rooms, showers, bars and parking for less than a four bedroomed house in some parts of Enfield.
    Short term profits will be the order of the day – landscaping with landfill (who is going to check every one of 17,500  20 tonne trucks?) There will be enormous pressure, salami style, for some release of  “just a few acres” for housing land. Once the short term profits have been made, distributed to share holders and consultants, we will be left with a golf course no better, possibly worse, than before and the development company will have quietly gone into voluntary liquidation.
    Whitewebbs Park and Golf Course are not going to be generators of huge sums of money, at least not for the Council and the ratepayers.
  5. Whitewebbs is accessible only by car for the vast majority of potential users. Yes, there is an hourly bus service but not on Sundays. The assertion in the Knight Frank prospectus that Crews Hill and Gordon Hill stations provide suitable access points is surely a joke. If the park and any new sports facilities generate many more visitors the green space they have come to enjoy will have to be covered  by a lot more tarmac for car parking.
  6. In summer that park is beautiful, in winter it is used by the hardiest – dedicated golfers, keen runners and dog walkers. The land is muddy, paths are waterlogged and the Beggars Hollow car park is icy. To many of us it is still beautiful.
  7. Developers could replace golf with a range of other activities – a massive investment would be required but Enfield is actually well supplied with easily accessible facilities. Playing fields, formal and informal abound, there are  multi use /  basketball courts in Tuckers (North Enfield Recreation ground) the Town Park and others, there are free to use tennis courts; school playing fields can be and are hired; netball courts, athletics tracks, swimming pools, fitness facilities and of course the private commercial centres such as David Lloyds are all readily accessible. All these are close to population centres and easy to get to by public transport. It may be that indoor facilities for younger people are not adequate but the difficult to get to Whitewebbs is not the place for them. There is little commercial point in  setting up another  “Go Ape” in the borough and the park is unsuited to massive  music events and shows.
  8. What should happen at Whitewebbs? In the park we have well over 100 acres of mature woodland, we have an adequate golf course with an average of over 25000 rounds of golf played annually, we have the Toby Carvery, we have a golf club that has some sort of relationship with the course but is a private club and occupies a building  in a poorish state, we have some public toilets, a bridleway for riders, car parking and a slightly upgraded version of a burger van for refreshments. The refreshment facility pays a rental of £10,000 p.a. and is on a very short lease. No sensible business person is going to invest heavily in good  facilities when on a short lease, it is unreasonable to expect that.  Despite its shortcomings the café is a vital part of the Whitewebbs community. Hundreds use it every week to meet up, socialise, relax and refresh themselves after a walk or half way round the golf course.
    The golf club and the Toby Carvery are  part of the park and I don’t know what contribution they make to the council’s budget. They are users of the park, even it is just enjoying the setting and ambience. To disregard any financial contribution they make is unfair to the park, just as it would be to exclude the rental for the café  from the park accounts.
    The figures in the Knight Frank prospectus  show that the Golf Course runs at a small loss. Every Golf Club includes income from function hire, catering and bar sales in their overall income. The golf course is trying hard to  build business and lower costs in a very competitive market. The figures show  that the losses are small, equivalent to a cup of coffee or tea per round. Weather conditions and equipment purchase affect income and expenditure. Setting the modest café rental against the losses would have  made the course break even for two of the last three years. The café is on land designated as part of the golf course. It is unreasonable to expect the Golf Course to break even within these restrictions.
    A way forward would be  to offer a 25 year lease to an enterprising and enthusiastic café owner  who would provide good facilities for all users of the park. With the right lease terms, he or she would invest in the business, pay  a much higher rent (or percentage of takings) to the Council. A community hub or hall could be provided, catering for a wide range of activities, children’s parties, puppy training, wildlife clubs, art exhibitions, Golf Club functions ……….. . There could be pop up shops for special events. The more attractive the facility, the more people will use it, the greater will be the income. Providing a children’s play area would attract many more families.
  9. Whitewebbs Park and the Golf Course are important to the physical wellbeing of us all. We are all being reminded of what we have to do  to preserve and protect our planet. Whitewebbs is important to the physical and mental well being of the Enfield citizens who use the park. It is a place where the very young can experience nature and where the more mature can rebuild themselves with fresh air, tranquility and calm social interaction with friends and new acquaintances.
  10. Please check the comments page to see the views of others who have added their views to the site. Please add your comments and please spread the word  through social media, personal contact and by contacting your ward councillors.

Example of Golf Course Landscaping

The Old Fold Manor Golf Club in Barnet has recently undergone a landscaping programme on the course. This involved the movement of 80,000 cu metres of earth.

With the proposed changes for Whitewebbs Golf Course in mind (up to 200,000 cu metres of soil) it might be of interest to look at the Barnet Society’s web pages where they report on and monitor the landscaping process.

These are the links to the relevant pages:

https://barnetsociety.org.uk/component/k2/old-fold-manor-golf-club-proposed-landscaping-works

https://barnetsociety.org.uk/component/k2/earthworks-remodelling-barnet-golf-course

https://barnetsociety.org.uk/component/k2/golf-course-landfill-plan-questions-that-need-answering

https://barnetsociety.org.uk/component/k2/plans-for-barnet-golf-course

These YouTube videos give some idea of the work involved in golf course re landscaping.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XNlliJO1Rk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmPROfLI-_E&t=168s

A minor change to landscaping proposal?

This correction to the prospectus issued by  their agents, Knight Frank, has been made.

 

The Council will consider bids that involve landscaping projects within Whitewebbs, which involves importing soil onto the land and is an approach often used for golf course developments.   The wording ‘inert material’ within the marketing materials was incorrectly used and we would like to thank the individual for bringing this to our attention. The wording should have referred to ‘soil’ or ‘specified soil and aggregates’. Soil is not classified as ‘inert material’, as it contains nutrients, whilst ‘inert material’ indicates waste/landfill, which would not be permitted by the Environment Agency.  Any proposed landscaping scheme will need to demonstrate that it complies with strict CL:AIRE (Contaminated Land: Applications in Real Environments) or Environment Agency permits requirements.

To clarify further, any landscaping scheme would be subject to planning approval and any granted permission is likely to be subject to conditions to mitigate any impact of the scheme. As Whitewebbs is within the greenbelt the application would need to demonstrate how the scheme will not negatively impact the local environment, including the type of materials used in a scheme and a construction management plan.

We have taken action to clarify the Council’s position, by updating and re-issuing the marking details with the more detailed specification in line with Environment Agency requirements.

 

It would be  really helpful to have some expert views on the implications of this change.

Commercially, this could be significant for a Whitewebbs developer. Inert material is building waste that developers will pay a high price to get rid off. Landscaping with it can generate a very high income for  the landscaper.

Soil, specified soil and aggregates could be a different matter. Topsoil as any gardener or farmer knows is a valuable commodity. Clean aggregates are valuable materials for construction projects, road builders  and the like. Neither topsoil or clean aggregates are given away. There are many grades of soil,  complex definitions of contamination and an abundance of regulations such as those alluded to in the Council’s correction. See the links below:

http://topscape.co.uk/portfolio-item/unearthing-the-truth-about-topsoil/

https://www.urbanregen.co.uk/technical/Permitting-Exemptions-WRAP-CL.AIRE-CoP.pdf

It really would be great if some knowledgeable person could provide some guidance on the implications of this correction.

I suspect that, if implemented effectively, any developer would be faced with a  very high net cost for landscaping rather than a very high net profit.

Sean

 

Thanks for responses

Thank you for the responses so far. At this stage I think that it is important that as many people as possible contact  their ward councillors and/or the cabinet member for the environment directly with their views. Please ask friends and other park users to do the same.

A list of Chase ward councillors is in a previous post together with a link to the full list on the Enfield web site. Numbers do matter.

I am not aware of anyone from the Council monitoring this site but do believe that  the associated Walking in Whitewebbs facebook page is checked.  Contributions there are welcome.

Sean

 

Who to contact about Whitewebbs proposals

If we want to make our views about the future of Whitewebbs Park and Golf Course effective it is important to act quickly.

Contact your ward councillors, the Cabinet Member for Environment Cllr Guney Dogan Cllr.guney.dogan@enfield.gov.uk and officers at property.matters@enfield.gov.uk

The Cabinet Member for Property and Assets is Cllr Ahmet Oykener email: cllr.ahmet.oykener@enfield.gov.uk

A full list of councillors is available at https://governance.enfield.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?VW=TABLE&PIC=1&FN=ALPHA

Whitewebbs is in Chase ward, the councillors are:

Chase Ward Councillors

Dino Lemonides Labour Group Office
Civic Centre
Silver Street
Enfield
EN1 3XA

020 8379 2829

cllr.dino.lemonides@enfield.gov.uk

Vicki Pite The Labour Group Office
Civic Centre
Silver Street
Enfield
EN1 3XA

020 8379 2859

cllr.vicki.pite@enfield.gov.uk

Hass Yusuf The Labour Group Office
Civic Centre
Silver Street
Enfield
EN1 3XA

02083795410

Cllr.Hass.Yusuf@Enfield.gov.uk

Alternative proposals for Whitewebbs Park

Any private commercial development of Whitewebbs Park and Golf course  would involve an  a lot of environmental damage and more destruction of the Green Belt.

Without  house building and “landscaping” (dumping of building waste) the scope for massive income generation is very limited. No park is expected to make money and Whitewebbs cost very little to run – it has been neglected for years.

A lot of people use the park, dog walkers and golfers every day of the year, walkers,  walking clubs, wildlife lovers, runners, people who want a bit of peace and quiet, the occasional cyclist passing through and horseriders using the bridleway.

Apart from the golf course the only  commercial activities in the park  are the Toby Carvery (separate lease arrangement) and the small cafe in Beggars Hollow.

The cafe is leased at £10000 a year and is tightly restricted by planning rules from developing into a more attractive venue.

People go to enjoy the Park and then call in at the cafe to get a coffee, a cake or a bacon sandwich. Very few people go to the cafe  because it is an attractive venue in its own right.

There are many examples of excellent cafes in London Parks. Why not give planning permission for a larger permanent cafe with facilities that will attract more of the current users and will be of sufficient quality to attract many more? Warmth, shelter from the elements, clean toilets, a welcome for muddy booted walkers,  wet and grassy golfers, dogs and their owners, the provision of good food and beverages would generate enough income to pay the Council a much higher rent. This would offset the  relatively small losses of the golf course. At present the golf course, unlike clubs, can’t subsidise the course through bar, catering and facility rental.

Add some general use  accommodation such as a small hall and the facility could be a real community hub – parties, puppy training, information centre, talks, meetings…. . Build a small play area for children and an outdoor gym  and the place becomes even more attractive. More customers for the cafe, more income for the cafe operator, higher rental paid to the Council.

The cafe operator will need a decent length of lease if investment in facilities is to be a worthwhile prospect.

What maintenance work in the Park is done is undertaken by volunteers. Walkers keep the paths open, by walking them. The park costs very little to run.