North Worcestershire Golf Club have today confirmed that they have entered into ‘an agreement’ with developer Bloor Homes, stating that they: “have no option but to sell” due to the financial situation of the club.
The Northfield club, at the corner of Hanging Lane and Frankley Beeches Road, has been on the site for over 100 years. It has been the target of housing developers for a number of years, with rumours about potential sale in 2012 and 2013. At that time, the board were adamant there were no plans to sell.
However, at an emergency general meeting in February, members of the club voted to allow the Executive Committee to consider an offer to purchase the land from Bloor Homes, with a view to building hundreds of new homes.
Many local residents are concerned by the potential sale and 448 people signed a petition against the threat in less than 24 hours.
However, board members of the club, alongside representatives of Bloor Homes and agents Harris Lamb, met with MP Richard Burden (Lab, Northfield) and local councillors this week to discuss proposals for the sale of the club for residential development.
Mr Burden and Councillors Andy Cartwright and Ian Cruise, all strongly opposed to development on the site, were informed of the state of the club’s finances and the reasons for the proposed sale. The club board told them that every option had been considered and that the club is facing insolvency.
Club chairman Roger Adams said that there had been a 34% drop in adult male membership and, with 70% of the club’s current member being aged 65 and over, this would only decrease further.
Mr Adams said that the club had tried to improve their membership and income to no avail, saying: “We have tried discounted membership, course improvements, and special offers to attract new members and visitors but, I’m afraid, with over £350,000 per year needed to simply break even and 80% of our income from membership fees, we’ve been fighting a losing battle!
“To put it starkly, the club is simply unsustainable and we have no option but to sell” he said.
Mr Adams sought to reassure local residents about any future development adding: “However, we will wish to ensure that the local community needs are considered as part of this process.”
Bloor Homes assured those present that a significant part of the site would be developed for public use. Land Director Duncan MacKay said: “I was very pleased to meet with Richard and the councillors and explained to them that a substantial part of the site will be set aside for local community facilities. For instance, sports pitches that could be used by local clubs while other residents could utilise the new open spaces, footpaths and cycleways created alongside the stream – something they are presently unable to do on this privately owned land.
“We will also be talking to the relevant authorities about the infrastructure required to support a residential scheme, including looking at the capacity of local roads, schools and any flooding issues.”
On his own blog, Richard Burden describes: “…a tense meeting without many conclusions…” at which he and the councillors continued to raise concerns and express their opposition.
Mr Burden said: “We owed it to the people we represent to express ourselves frankly and to register the real and widespread public opposition which residents have expressed to the prospect of the Golf Course being built upon. We also emphasised the importance of looking at alternatives to sale and redevelopment. We note what we were told about the financial situation facing the Club, and we may come back to them with further questions on that to enable everyone to understand the full range of options which could be available to them.
“It was clear that Bloor Homes are aware of the real concerns we have about any flood risks that may be associated with redeveloping the Golf Course and sought to assure us that they would remove any such risks. This is a matter we would also wish to pursue further.”
And the MP stressed that, following the meeting, he remains opposed to the plans, saying: “We are be willing to have further conversations with the Club and its partners going forward, but this should not be taken as a softening of our opposition to redevelopment on behalf of local people. The current Birmingham Planning framework precludes building on the Golf Course. Both we and local people will take a great deal of convincing that this should change.”
An initial public consultation has been promised to take place before the summer holiday period where Bloor Homes want to hear from local residents what type of facilities they would prefer to see on the site. A more detailed consultation will follow.
We will post information on any consultation meetings as soon as we receive it.