Privatised club seeks new operator8th October, 2012 by Colin Victor
A golf club that has been at the centre of a number of problems since its council privatised it is tendering for the third management company to take it over in just 18 months.
Basildon Golf Club, which describes itself as ‘a private club on a public course’, was run by Basildon Golf Centre, which agreed a 99-year lease with the local council in 2007 to manage it. However, following a row over the company’s £10,000 water bill which the council ended up paying, the company closed the club last April. It was then re-opened for a month and run by members, before Warehouse Sports UK, a firm appointed by Basildon Golf Centre, took the club over.
The council then forced Basildon Golf Centre to surrender the lease as it was breached when the club was closed, but allowed Warehouse Sports UK to continue to manage the venue, even though this was costing taxpayers £20,000 per month. Now – a year and a half later – the council has decided that a new company will run the club.
Companies can bid to run the 18-hole course or to develop a five-acre site next to it for hotel or leisure purposes, or run both together, before a November 2 deadline.
Lack of suitable management is the latest in a string of problems that the council has run into following the privatisation of the golf course. At the end of last year the Audit Commission criticised Basildon Borough Council for a deal it made with Jack Barker Limited (which has Ronald Maydon as a director, who has sat on the board of at least six ‘golf centres’, including Basildon, which are now all in liquidation) in 2005. The council leased the course to the firm but councillors were not officially told that the deal included 140,000 tonnes of spoil being dumped on the course.
Furthermore, in 2010, at huge cost to the council, the Court of Appeal ruled that the council had acted unlawfully when it granted planning permission for Basildon Golf Centre to redevelop the course, even though the company needed taxpayer funding. The Audit Commission has also been critical of the council’s decision to give Basildon Golf Centre £140,000 despite a lack of clarity over its benefits.
Conservative councillor, Kevin Blake, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for someone to shape the development and running of a popular leisure facility. This is also about ensuring the long-term future of the golf course and finding an operator at nil cost to the council and local taxpayers.
“We have taken professional advice from golf course experts and done all we can to promote this opportunity for the market and I hope that we get a good response.”
Fellow Tory, councillor Stuart Sullivan, added: “We want to see a successful and popular facility that the people of Basildon can enjoy now and in the future. We are flexible in what leisure uses could be created at the golf course and the approach we are taking allows the private sector to come to us with suitable ideas.”