RE: Whitewebbs Golf Course (Case Ref: FC7645)
|Feryal Clark MP <email@example.com>||7 Apr 2021, 14:09|
Dear Sean Wilkinson,
RE: Whitewebbs Golf Course
Thank you for your email and letter regarding the above matter. I was very sorry to hear of your concerns regarding the lack of engagement from the council on this matter. I apologise for the delay in responding which is due to the time taken to receive information from Enfield council officers.
As a regular user of Whitewebbs grounds, I want to assure you that I recognise the significance of this green space, the woodlands, footpaths and bridal ways to our community. It has been particularly important during the recent lockdowns providing essential outdoor green space for walking, running and recreational use. Hence, I am clear these spaces must continue to be open and accessible to the local community.
Following the concerns raised with me by yourself and other residents regarding the closure of the golf course at Whitewebbs, I have made written enquires to Enfield council regarding the future of Whitewebbs. I believe the Council has subsequently written to all the residents in the surrounding area about this issue.
I am informed, by Enfield council, that the council property services team have been reviewing the financial viability of the current golf course at Whitewebbs for several of years. A decision was taken by the Council in 2019 to seek proposals from leisure providers, including golf course operators, for the future operation of Whitewebbs. I am informed that the council engaged with the local stakeholders at this stage incorporating their views into the councils marketing material setting out the ambitions and the scoring criteria for the bid assessment.
Following this consultation exercise the Council has undertaken a tendering process for the future operation of Whitewebbs and has stated that it expects to make an announcement shortly.
Whilst I recognise the need for the Council to ensure it has a financially viable leisure offer at Whitewebbs and public money is not being used to subsidise a loss making golf course, it must live up to its commitment to involve and engage local stakeholders in the final stages of the process and any final decision that is made.
As for the future leisure offer at Whitewebbs, whether this is Golf or other leisure use, the council must engage and give weighting to the wishes of local people including residents and community organisations, when making the final selection.
I personally have concerns regarding the woodlands and the protection and enhancement of biodiversity of this existing green space, I want to work with residents and local community and environmental groups to ensure a clear plan for protecting these spaces is put in place.
This plan needs to include clarity regarding these spaces and a written commitment in any agreement for continued public access of all the woodland, footpaths and bridal ways. I strongly believe that any bidder selected by stakeholders and the council must be able to demonstrate to the community in Enfield North the public benefits of their proposals and how they will deliver access to new facilities to schools and local groups over the life of their operation of the site.
Finally, on the issue that you and many of my constituents have raised, the consultation, I share your concerns and agree the council must do better. At a time when all public offices are shut down due to lockdown, council officers must find creative and accessible ways to engage with the residents.
I have now written to the Leader and Chief Executive of the council to raise the grave concerns raised with me by my constituents. I have called on the council to halt any decision on the future of Whitewebbs until the local stakeholders have had an opportunity to meet with the relevant officers to review the bidders.
I have also asked that the council provide a forward plan on the different stages of the project for Whitewebbs clarifying the key decision points and how they intend to engage with residents moving forward.
Thank you again for taking the time to write to me and I will do all that is in my power to ensure there is the level of transparency and engagement required and requested by you and residents of Enfield North.
I hope you find this response helpful and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.
Member of Parliament for Enfield North
Thank you for your reply. Please accept my apologies for the rather slow response to your email, this is due to the sheer volume of COVID related casework my office is receiving.
On your point about the re-formation of the friends group, I’m assured that the stakeholder groups that existed and were active at the time were involved in the discussion about the future of Whitewebbs and in the development of the marketing material. It is great to hear that the friends group has grown in membership now and that it has now reformed now. The current group may hold a different view to the previous group, however I cannot level criticism at the council for having engaged with the existing group(s) at the time. As mentioned in my previous email, I have and will continue to call on the council to ensure local stakeholder groups are engaged and kept informed.
On your point about the distinction I make between the woodland, publicly accessible and usable spaces and the space that is specifically designated as leisure space for use as a Golf Course. I make this distinction because these spaces are distinctly different.
The woodlands, bridal ways and public foot paths are settings and have distinctly different needs with regards to biodiversity. They have completely different uses and have different levels of public access e.g when the golf course is booked for use, the general public cannot use it.
On the other hand, the woodland has very specific species, such as trees and plants, and therefore will have much more significant biodiversity needs.
Whilst the woodland harbours very unique and different species and has vast different biodiversity, the golf course is green space that is mowed and has games played on it and is already closed to the public when its being used for golf.
Also, the woodland is currently always open to the public regardless of whether there is a private golf game on the golf course or not. I believe this is what we must work to preserve whatever the outcome of the councils proposals.
I hope I have been able to address your points and clarify my views.
Member of Parliament for Enfield North