Whitewebbs Park user Andrew Warshaw explains why he has lost patience with Enfield Council
The way Enfield Council has conducted itself over the closure of Whitewebbs Park Golf Course has to be one of the most disgraceful own goals ever when it comes to misjudging local public opinion.
Anyone who tuned into last month’s council scrutiny committee, or has followed the council’s reasoning in terms of how it reached such an unpopular decision, cannot fail to have come to any other conclusion.
When it launched its bid process for leasing the land that includes the golf club, the council promised residents an inclusive consultation process, without which no preferred bidder would be chosen.
Such community engagement and the assurance to “consult with the Friends of Whitewebbs Park” and “engage with members before selecting a preferred partner” has been, apart from a few ill-thought-out platitudes, conspicuous by its absence.
It’s an utterly unacceptable situation, not least for the thousands who have signed the “Save Whitewebbs” petition. Worse, it has led to a deep level of mistrust and all manner of suspicion over of what the debt-ridden council might be secretly planning in order to line its empty pockets. We have all heard the rumours.
While we have been assured that the golf course will not be used for housing development or landfill and that it will remain open for public access and enjoyment, some of the ‘facts’ the council has trotted out to try and convince us that the golf club’s closure was the right thing to do need to be seriously challenged.
The suggestion that Whitewebbs has been losing too much money and that mothballing it now is cheaper than keeping it open flies in the face of logic. Just when golfers across the country were crying out to play as lockdown rules were eased, so the council decided to close our nearest and most affordable public course. It was the very time when it would have generated a substantial cash income.
Then there are the on-the-record statements that the course had effectively been closed for the last year. The truth? It was open from June to October 2020. Who on Earth are they trying to kid?
Perhaps most scandalous of all is the argument that there are plenty of other courses to play in Enfield. Unless they are being deliberately disingenuous, none of the council bigwigs has ever played any of these. There is a fundamental difference between a pay-and-play public course affordable to the average golfer, and privately-owned courses which can cost over £1,500 to join. It’s outrageous to lump them together and the council should be ashamed.
No-one would deny that the closure of the course has opened it up to more joggers and dog walkers. But this misses a vital point. For many, golf is just as important for physical and mental wellbeing.
Don’t just take my word for it. An open letter sent to the council recently by Middlesex Golf Ltd, the governing body for amateur golf in the historic county, described the closure of the course as “devastating” to the borough. The nearby private alternatives “are not always accessible and often too expensive for the ‘vulnerable residents’ you wish to support”.
It continues: “During the pandemic we have all become much more aware of how important key workers are to our daily lives and of the vulnerability of the elderly, most of whom earn low wages and pensions.
“Whitewebbs offers these important groups an affordable way to socialise, exercise, and play sport. This is now going to be stripped away from them.”
Will the council listen? Will they be held to account? Don’t hold your breath.