Anger from users of low-cost Whitewebbs Park Golf Course, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter, and James Cracknell
A golf course that Enfield Council plans to lease out to a private contractor will not reopen as Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
According to the council, Whitewebbs Park Golf Course, in Clay Hill, has lost more than £1.1million during the past five years and it would be “irresponsible” to continue to subsidise it using taxpayers’ money.
But there has been anger among people who use the course, which remains a much cheaper and more accessible option for golfers to use compared with other clubs in the borough. Andrew Warshaw, a local resident and golf club user, told the Dispatch: “The timing is a disgrace. Players are itching, in fact craving, to get back out on the course post-lockdown.
“Think of all those – there must be hundreds – of players who regularly play there and can’t afford private clubs and now have nowhere else to play.”
The golf course, which is in the borough’s Green Belt, could have reopened from Sunday 28th March under the government’s current plans to lift lockdown restrictions. Based on the popularity of the golf course after last year’s lockdown, park users claim it could bring in up to £300,000 over the next few months if it reopened.
Conservative group leader Joanne Laban branded the closure “outrageous”. Cllr Laban said: “Whitewebbs Park is a much-loved asset in our borough, and it is outrageous that the Labour administration has decided to close the golf course with immediate effect, and with no consultation with residents.
“The reaction of residents on social media to this decision shows the strength of feeling on this issue. This action, in my opinion, indicates that the Labour council has already decided that the golf course will not remain, and some other form of commercial activity will replace it in the future, which seems to also prejudge the process of the procurement.”
A report published by the council last week acknowledged there was an increase in bookings for the course during summer 2020 but claimed this was “a temporary situation where existing golfers made up for lost rounds during lockdown”.
Enfield Council first revealed plans to lease out the course and its surrounding woodland to a commercial partner in 2019. The original marketing prospectus said the site had capacity for “inert material” – a category that could include building waste. The council later said this was a “mistake” and the reference was removed.
A council spokesperson said the course will still remain open for walking, jogging and other recreational use. They said: “Whitewebbs Golf Course has been making a loss for a number of years, despite the introduction of measures designed to increase income and reduce costs at the site.
“Since 2014/15 the golf club has lost more than £1.1million. At a time of national crisis, when our priority is protecting all of our communities and providing support for our most vulnerable residents, it would be irresponsible and unsustainable to continue to use taxpayers’ money to subsidise an activity that is well provided for elsewhere across the borough, with six full-length courses and a pitch and putt course available for golfers in Enfield.
“We are currently in a marketing process which will determine the future of the Whitewebbs Golf Course site. This process requires applicants to meet the needs of the council and the wider community and to increase community access to Whitewebbs for walking, recreation, leisure and other uses.
“Unfortunately, this process has been delayed because of the pandemic. However, Enfield Council will be in a position to announce the next steps shortly.
“Any suggestion the site will be used for housing or landfill are utter nonsense and scaremongering.”