Tom Watson golf course in Surrey can be built despite it being ‘too exclusive’
The Court of Appeal has overturned a High Court ruling that halted work on a major new Tom Watson designed golf course in Surrey partly because it was too exclusive.
Work began on a £30 million project to convert Lord Beaverbrook’s former country home, Cherkley Court, which features a Grade II-listed building on green belt land near Leatherhead, into a luxury golf club last year.
However, the High Court ruled that the work had to stop as ‘Beaverbrook Golf Club’ would not meet the public’s needs as it would be too exclusive.
Surrey already has more than 140 golf clubs, including some of the most exclusive in the world, and is the county in England that is the third most densely covered with golf courses.
The judge added that Mole Valley District Council’s decision to grant planning permission on such an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was perverse, and that the council had ‘erred in law’.
But law lords have overturned the judgement after an appeal by the council and developer Longshot Cherkley Court, and have reinstated planning permission.
The project, which is expected to create 200 jobs, includes an 18-hole golf course which is being co-designed by Tom Watson.
Campaigners have said they are considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.
A spokesman for them, Richard Buxton, said: “This case raised fundamental questions about decision making affecting the environment and paves the way for a completely unaccountable free-for-all, even in relation to decisions about large developments which are supposed to be subject to strongest rules relating to assessment of environmental impact and transparent decision-making.”
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Shaun Spiers, chief executive of Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), added: “This is a good day for millionaire golfers, and a very bad day for the countryside.
“CPRE Surrey and the Cherkley Campaign have fought a magnificent battle against the suburbanisation of some outstanding open countryside. It is a huge shame that on this occasion they have outgunned by the big battalions.”
Ian Todd, director of developer Longshot Cherkley Court, said: “From our point of view the Court of Appeal judgement and the overwhelming support from the local community have only strengthened our resolve to deliver a project, of which Mole Valley residents can be justifiably proud.”
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Yvonne Rees, chief executive of Mole Valley District Council (MVDC), added: “The appeal raised a number of important planning principles which are of significant interest to other planning authorities across the country.
“Such a decision reinforces the validity of the decision-making process that MVDC undertook.”