Commentary – statement extracts in italics
Whitewebbs Golf Course has been making a financial loss for a number of years despite the introduction of measures designed to increase income and reduce costs at the site. Since 2014/15 the golf club has lost more than £1.1million.
The Friends of Whitewebbs Park have supplied detailed figures to Mark Bradbury (August 2020) that reflect a very different position. These show that the course had an operating surplus of £487,486 over the last 5 years. It also fails to take into account the upsurge in use last year which increased income by 80%.
Since 2010 Enfield Council has been forced to find £193 million of savings because of government funding cuts and increasing pressure on services. At a time of national crisis when our priority is protecting all of our communities and providing support for our most vulnerable residents, it would be irresponsible of Enfield Council to continue to use tax-payers money to subsidise an activity that is well provided for elsewhere across the borough.
What is actually irresponsible is closing a facility three weeks before it hits its biggest cash-generating period. The money spent on maintaining the golf course during the various lockdowns has already been spent and cannot be unspent. However, keeping the course open now will earn an estimated £200k – £300k over the summer months. Closing it throws away the opportunity to make those earnings whilst saving very little: the staff will still need to be paid if they are redeployed or paid redundancy if they are not.
Enfield has six full length courses and a pitch and putt course available for golfers.
These are at private clubs which may have more expensive green fees or membership rules that will exclude less well-off members of the community. It also has the potential to increase pollution by forcing players to drive further to play. But what is certain is that it drives income away from LBE and into other organisations.
In reality the Whitewebbs Golf Course has been closed for much of the last year and Enfield Council is currently in a process to determine the future of the site.
Yes – but it was also open and very well used for the months of the year when it was legally allowed to be so. The upswing in income generated was significant.
This decision was taken and published in March 2019.* Unfortunately, this process has been delayed because the coronavirus pandemic has affected the immediate priorities of the Council and the applicants.
The decision to close the golf course with immediate effect was NOT taken in March 2019. The linked document clearly shows this. Its recommendations read:
2. Recommendations: It is recommended that the Cabinet Member for Property & Assets:
2.1 Agrees to the proposed marketing and disposal process described within this report, for Whitewebbs Park Golf Course
2.2 Delegates the authority to the director of Property & Economy to instruct the director of Law and Governance to draw up legal agreements for a suitable property transaction for Whitewebbs Park Golf Course
The document then details the possibility of TUPE regulations being applied to golf course staff if transferred to the successful applicant, which pre-supposes the possibility of the successful applicant keeping the golf course operational.
Later in the document, there is also a detailed timing plan with 19 points. None of these points are “Closure of the Golf Course”. Given that according to this timing plan, the lease should have been awarded in December 2019 (clearly pre-pandemic), you can see that those responsible have missed every milestone.
The first mention of immediate closure of the golf course is in KD5177 of 10th March 2021.
Enfield Council has consistently been clear that among other considerations, applicants must meet the needs of the wider community and any proposed future use of the site must increase community access to Whitewebbs for walking, recreation, leisure and other uses.
True. However the process has been conducted in a very secretive way and with some important, self-admitted, errors. As residents, stakeholders and Park users, we are yet to be consulted on the shortlist, so no-one knows what is happening.
Any suggestion that the site will be used for housing or landfill are utter nonsense and scaremongering.
We do however know that the marketing materials made much of the capacity of the golf course alone being for 200,000 m3 of inert material (later changed to soil). The original use of the term ‘inert material’ suggests one thing: unwanted soil and subsoil from building sites. Yes, it was altered to soil – but the damage to everyone’s confidence in the project had been done. No-one I know has suggested it would be used for landfill. For lack of firm information there are rumours of housing, hotel development ………………..
Enfield Council will be in a position to announce the next steps in the very near future. In the meantime whilst the course will be closed to golf, the site will remain open for walking, jogging and other recreational use. Please see above for why keeping the golf course open would have been a more sensible course of action.