Whitewebbs and the Spurs deal – financial incompetence, recklessness or what?

Let us look closely at the Spurs deal:

THL (Spurs/ENIC) will pay £500,000 upfront and then, after 5 years, start paying £75,000 a year rental for a 150 acre estate. A few years ago Whitewebbs Park was valued at about £16million pounds.

The Council is treating  the £500,000 as capital, which can be spent on improving the park infrastructure – footpaths, the bridleways, fences etc.

But it is not capital – it is like one of us saying I am going to earn £150,000 over the next five years so I am going to spend all of it now using the credit card to buy a new Mercedes. Unfortunately  I won’t have any income for the next five years so will not be able to buy petrol, insurance, servicing, food or housing.

The £500,000 is just an advance on income – a sub

Councillors will want to spend it on attractive projects that will look good in photo opportunities.

They will forget the running costs, repairs, maintenance provision for replacement – let the next administration take care of that, they will have moved on and left accountability behind them.

The promises – both are from the Spurs  prospectus but referenced by the Council

promise 1

The first seems to suggest that all the work will be done by Spurs for the whole park – but read on

promise 2

The second paragraph suggests that the work on the council land will be paid for from the £500,000 paid by Spurs to the council “the Club’s financial consideration for its lease on the site.”

Upgrades and investment to the statutory footpaths and bridleways….. damaged timber fencing … signs… . This work is expensive.

The bridleways are in a poor state, most of the fencing has fallen down or is about to fall down. The surface is poor and badly drained. Only the North  South sections of the bridleways are “statutory”.

There are no statutory footpaths in the Spurs lease area, just a few short lengths of permissive paths.

Over half the 4kms of bridleway and almost all the permissive footpaths are in the area being retained by the Council. The footpaths are in a very poor state, especially in winter. Using a 2019  Scottish Government guide to the cost of paths and fences I came up with a figure of about £350,000 to bring the bridleways, fencing and some footpaths up to a reasonable standard. To this has to be added VAT where applicable, allowance for inflation, higher London costs, and Council central admin costs (These can be very high – see dispute over golf course costings). These would bring the total costs to well over £500,000

And, of course, there would be no income for general maintenance, repairs, litter  removal, woodland maintenance and environmental management for the first  five years.

The £75,000 from year 6 onwards might possibly cover general running costs but with no provision for major maintenance (wooden fences last about 10-15 years, paths need resurfacing. Look at the dual use path in Hilly Fields for evidence of this.)

Add this  into the equation

“The leader of the Council, Cllr Nesil Caliskan said    (note “these proposals” = the bid from Spurs)

Quoted in the Marketing update

To turn an average £80,000 annual  income into £100,000 annual expenditure on sport and improve and maintain the park infrastructure would be a miraculous achievement on a par with the loaves and fishes (or just appalling maths)

This whole “Marketing of Whitewebbs Park” is a display of incompetence on a grand scale by the officers and councillors. As was pointed out at the time  the whole  concept and process was fundamentally flawed. The consultation with the Community was a disgrace to democracy and the financial returns to the people of Enfield are pitiful. Just as we realise the full value of our open spaces after COVID  the Council effectively privatises one of our prize natural assets at a give away price.

Did anyone at the Civic Centre trouble to work out what capital and income was needed to revitalise the park’s infrastructure and maintain this to a high level so that all could use and enjoy it?

But a multi billion dollar offshore company will do exceedingly well out of the deal and will end up with its very own country estate in Enfield at minimal cost. Spurs will, no doubt, be delighted by the deal.

If this could not be got right what hope is there for the rest of council finances?

The Best arrangement for Enfield residents

The Council has closed the Golf Course and can no longer  make the argument that it is losing money. (The prime reason for marketing Whitewebbs)

The best approach for Enfield would be to  retain the park as it is but upgrade the café and community facilities at Beggars Hollow.  A mix of long lease commercial café with non profit community facilities would fit the bill. The old golf course buildings and yard could be leased out to a suitable business. This would generate  more income than is being offered by Spurs / ENIC

If  Spurs has to be accommodated this would be a better and fairer deal for Enfield

Lease of land for THL—THL has already built a women’s facility on their existing site which has yet 23/4/22  to receive a planning approval decision.
Lease up to 4 hectares of land from the NE corner of Whitewebbs for  up to 4 pitches.  No buildings on Whitewebbs land, with access via existing Spurs ground.

Allow diversion of Bridleway  along southern and western boundaries of  this area.  Boundary to be marked by secure fencing screened by trees and  suitable vegetation not  ugly great walls of earth.

Premium  £2,000,000 with annual payments of £200,000 inflation adjusted starting year 1 through to year 25.
A bond to cover restoration after 25 years.

 Finance for the park

1. Premium to be spent on capital construction of new community facilities and refurbishment of  existing  facilities—footpaths, bridleway improvement, demarcated cycle way through the park,  play areas, lake refurbishment, toilet blocks., environmental study facilities for schools / adults with community rooms for hire.

2. Annual rental from THL to  be allocated to maintenance of the above and any normal  park management e.g grass cutting, woodland maintenance

3. Income from  other park based sources e.g. café, rental of the old golf course buildings and yard and rental from Whitewebbs House to be similarly allocated to  park improvement and maintenance.

4. Grants and funding to be sought for specific new projects and activities

Sean Wilkinson

One Reply to “Whitewebbs and the Spurs deal – financial incompetence, recklessness or what?”

  1. As a Chase resident (and golfer) I have followed events surrounding Whitewebbs since the beginning. In response to the famous leaflet-drop early in 2021 I contacted Mark Bradbury via email, with questions about the Whitewebbs Golf Course financial information as stated in the leaflet. I received a reply which was highly evasive, at times indignant, and did nothing to ease the worry I have that something sinister/underhand is being proactively conducted by the Council.

    The ‘tender process’ would have been laughable were it not so shrouded in secrecy, which again does nothing to alter the view that democracy is not being observed in this matter of publicly-owned land essentially being given away cheaply to corporate interests. Council mathematics appear confused and lacking in transparency at best; highly questionable at worst. However, when questioned both by myself and others answers are either not forthcoming at all, or barely-disguised obfuscation.

    As a regular user of Whitewebbs GC both before and after lockdowns I was well aware of the utilisation that was REALLY going-on; not the situation suggested by the inadequate – deliberately misleading again? – financial picture of the course’s revenue figures provided by Bradbury.

    I will be opposing any application submitted on behalf of THFC/ENIC vigorously.

Comments are closed.