British golf club closes for Libyan army21st August, 2013 by Emma Williams
A British golf club that was closed down by the government earlier this year is set to be used as land to train members of the Libyan army.
Nine-hole Bassingbourn Golf Club, in Hertfordshire, borders land that was handed over to the United States Air Force during World War Two, where it was used as an airfield that was home to the Memphis Belle. It then fell under British military control, most recently as the home of the Army Training Regiment, until 2012.
Last year the land passed into the ownership of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and all British soldiers left the site. The golf club’s members were told at the time that they would no longer be able to access the site.
The club then met with MoD officials and detailed that its loss would hurt the local community and that its members could run the club themselves – preventing the need for the golf club to be closed down.
“To our astonishment, the MoD refused point blank to consider any options,” said Des Downey, committee member at Bassingbourn Golf Club, last month.
“It was very evident that any public interest factors such as the loss of community leisure facilities had not been part of their thinking.
“To compound it all, taxpayers see community leisure assets to the value of perhaps £1 million destroyed.
“The MoD, who enjoyed excellent relationships with the local community, reaching back to World War Two, are seen to have acted in a capricious and intransigent manner.”
Mr Downey added at the time that he had written to Ben Turner, assistant private secretary to the permanent secretary at the MoD, to register an official complaint about the way the closure of the golf club was handled.
Other sports’ clubs at the site, such as a hockey club and a yachting club, have also closed down, although a dry ski slope remains open.
It has now emerged that up to 2,000 Libyan army personnel will arrive at the site later this year for training.
Colonel Alex Macintosh, commanding officer of the Cambridge University Officer Training Corps, confirmed that the clubs will not be allowed back to use their facilities during the period of Libyan army training.
“When the Libyan project came upon us a review was carried out,” he said.
“Regrettably the decision came back that the clubs will not be able to use the site during the period of Libyan training there.”
An MoD spokesman added: “The sports’ and social clubs were informed in 2012 that, following the closure of the Bassingbourn Barracks, they would no longer be able to access the site because of the cost of providing additional security and satisfying adequate health and safety requirements.
“MoD engaged with the clubs and societies throughout the process and explained that we could not justify keeping the site open for regular public use when MoD is no longer operating the site itself. All leases have now expired.”
Adrian Dent, county councillor for Bassingbourn, said: “It is a big blow for the area.”