Council confirms Spurs lease of Whitewebbs Park despite hundreds of objections

Opposition councillors have accused the authority of “riding roughshod” over the views of local people, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Spurs are set to takeover part of Whitewebbs Wood as well as former golf course land
Spurs are set to lease part of Whitewebbs Wood as well as the park’s former golf course land

Enfield Council has been accused of “riding roughshod” over the wishes of local people after vowing to press on with plans to lease part of Whitewebbs Park to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

The council received 788 objections to its plans to hand more than half of the Green Belt parkland to the Premier League club – whose existing training ground is adjacent to Whitewebbs – on a 25-year lease. It had given formal notice of the proposal last December, when it invited public comments, although it says some of the many hundreds received were “duplications”.

The plan to lease Whitewebbs to Spurs, which wants to create a women’s and girls’ training academy in the north-east of the park on part of what used to be a municipal golf course, has caused ongoing controversy since it was revealed two years ago. Local campaigners now say they will challenge the decision in court.

On 14th December last year, the civic centre published a notice of its intention to dispose of the land, allowing one month for objections. The hundreds of comments received raised concerns ranging from a lack of consultation to reduced public access to the land, loss of wildlife habitats, and claims the £2million value of the Whitewebbs lease represents a bad deal given that Tottenham Hotspur is one of the wealthiest football clubs in the country.

Despite these objections, a report published by the council this week reveals it intends to go ahead with the lease, claiming it offers “significant benefits” such as a new nature reserve and the ‘rewilding’ of part of the golf course.

Conservative councillors in Enfield have long opposed the leasing of the park to Tottenham Hotspur. Reece Fox, who represents Whitewebbs ward, said: “Sadly, this represents the Labour council riding roughshod over the very clearly declared wishes of local people.

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“The decision of the council to ignore local opinion and their own responsibilities is the height of arrogance.

“Spurs, apparently on the verge of coining in over £100m from the sale of their best player [there are rumous Harry Kane will be sold to Bayern Munich], are gaining access to the beauty of Whitewebbs for next to nothing.”

Cllr Fox said that when the proposed lease was debated at full council, “the anger from residents was palpable”. He added: “We will continue fighting this disgrace by all means necessary […] Whitewebbs Park must be saved for public use.”

The authority is also facing questions over the financial basis for the closure of the municipal golf course that formerly occupied the site. The course was first closed amid the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the council chose to close it permanently in spring 2021 – a few months before Tottenham Hotspur was announced as a preferred bidder for the lease.

The council initially stated that the course lost nearly £1.2m in the six years to 2019/20 based on a “full-cost accounting approach”. But the authority’s latest Whitewebbs report now states that on the basis of “cashable savings as a result of closing the golf course” – which means excluding overheads and capital charges – it only made a £115,000 loss.

The report adds: “Although the calculated loss is significantly reduced, the golf club was nevertheless being run at a loss. The current proposal, if approved, would bring a financial benefit to the council of £2m […] and an increase in business rates.”

Sean Wilkinson, chair of The Friends of Whitewebbs Park, said: “At first sight, it could appear that the reason for marketing Whitewebbs Park was based on incompetence and falsehoods.”

Further details of the football club’s plans for the site have also been revealed. They include proposals to work with the council and stakeholders “to establish one of the country’s first habitat banks to provide for the long-term stewardship of Whitewebbs Wood”.

Habitat banks allow investors to fund environmental improvements and can be used by developers to compensate for negative impacts elsewhere.

Under the plans from Spurs, the proposed training academy – which will still need to obtain planning permission – is set to cover around 18% of the overall park. It has pledged to “enhance” public access elsewhere by improving footpaths and bridleways, as well as making landscape and ecological improvements.

Enfield Council has been approached for comment.

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