Mercifully, the mainstream political party conference season drew to a close this week after politicians of every hue managed to upset the electorate by announcing a raft of ill-considered, on-the-hoof suggestions, wrapped up as ‘policies’, which singularly failed to enjoy universal acclaim.
References to property and land featured prominently in the clutch of ill-advised ‘policies’ proposed over the last couple of weeks ranging from Stalinist-style threats to confiscate land, to Keynesian-style efforts to boost an already buoyant property market, but how could either affect golfers?
Golf clubs appreciate that their most valuable asset is the softly undulating greensward upon which us golfers hack our way around and, while economic conditions may be improving, the process is proving painfully slow – too slow for many clubs, the majority of whom cannot currently borrow money from their banks.
Thus it’s hardly surprising that an increasing number of clubs are tempted to separate little-used corners of their courses and either sell them to a developer, or enter into joint venture arrangements with builders and reap a proportion of the eventual profits. However, it’s at this point that the hard work begins.
Two years ago, Shirley Golf Club applied for planning permission on land it wished to sell to a developer who would then build on it; the application was rejected.
In the summer, the proposal was revamped and submitted to Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council with more specific proposals – this time to build 57 new homes.
If successful, the project will raise £2.5 million for the club, money that will be used to fund the construction of a new driving range and a disabled golf academy.
The application will go before the planning committee later this month. One Conservative councillor, Ken Hawkins, is opposing the scheme and has attracted 166 supporting signatories to a petition to be submitted to the council.
He said. “Although I can accept the building of the golf academy and driving range, I do feel that building homes on greenbelt farmland is a justifiable reason to object to the planning application.”
And there’s the rub: a new range and facilities are a good thing, but the ‘cost’ is almost five dozen houses erected on green belt land. Such scenarios are likely to become more common as pressure builds on housing stock and golf clubs require money. The outcome of the Solihull case will have implications for golf clubs across the rest of the country.