Golf club was 'pushed' to leave course, chairman says

Shay Bottomley

Maidenhead Golf Club chairman Paul Louden has said that the ‘club’s desire’ has always been to stay at the current golf course site and that it was ‘pushed all the way’ by the council.

Mr Louden said that it had been made ‘very clear’ that MGC ‘had no future at the site’, leading to a surrender agreement in 2016 providing the club with seven years to relocate to a new course.

He is one of several members to comment on the decision to accept a revised £15.95million offer following criticism in an opinion piece from Gavin Ames in last week’s Viewpoint.

The golf course and the land south of Harvest Hill Road is earmarked for 2,600 homes under the Borough Local Plan.

“The land at Shoppenhangers [Road] is owned by RBWM and is leased to us for 50 years; our current lease expires in 2039,” said Paul.

“Although help was promised in finding appropriate land for MGC and assisting with development, this was withdrawn at the next meeting.

“Further meetings contained many references that RBWM were going to take the land back from MGC and build houses on it.

“The Agreement to Surrender depended on the Borough Local Plan (BLP) being approved and adopted. Five years later that has still not happened so the current agreement drifts on.”

He added that the golf club had been in discussions over the past two years to improve its ‘increasingly dire’ situation.

An extension on the surrender date as part of the revised offer was the ‘most important element’ in MGC’s view.

“This fits with our Articles of Association which require the board to promote the game of golf, to acquire and take over the leasehold golf links at Maidenhead Golf Course and to carry on a golf club upon said site and any other premises acquired from time to time,” Paul continued.

“However, a considerable number of members have made it clear that they were very much in favour of rescinding the original agreement and carrying on golf for the duration of our lease to 2039. This is allowed under the current Agreement to Surrender.

“There was a ‘long stop date’ of December 31, 2018. After that date ‘any party may rescind this agreement and neither party shall have any further rights or obligations’.

“RBWM left us in no doubt that if this occurred, they would immediately commence the process to obtain a compulsory purchase order with a view to ejecting MGC as soon as they could. We took legal advice, and it was quite clear that the process could be long, uncertain and very costly all round.”

Mr Louden added that the reason for the EGM was to get a formal response from members before ‘time ran out’ and the BLP was formally approved, and that there had been a ‘lot of discussion and significant data was distributed to all the members’ at the meeting earlier this month.

“To be clear, it has always been our desire to stay, as long as possible, in the location that is Maidenhead Golf Club,” said Paul.

“We have been pushed all the way by RBWM.

“Interestingly it is often quoted in the Advertiser that the council are working hard to get to an agreement but not one of the elected councillors from the ruling party have made a visit to MGC during this process.

“Quite simply, we have been forced into our current position with the council clearly intent on a process that can be very uncertain.”

A council spokesperson said: “While we can’t comment on matters of commercial confidentiality, this was wholly a decision for the club's membership, where we note the overwhelming endorsement of members, and one that has followed years of discussion.

“That discussion has taken place within the context of this council-owned land first being proposed by the golf club and the council in the emerging Borough Local Plan back in 2016 to meet a significant proportion of the borough’s housing needs in the most sustainable location to provide much-needed affordable homes, family homes, and community facilities as well as green public open space.

“Bringing forward this site in a timely manner ensures that new development in the borough is well planned and meets local needs, happens in the most appropriate locations and is supported by suitable existing and new infrastructure, putting the council in a strong position to resist inappropriate development in the wrong locations anywhere in the borough.

“We look forward to continuing to work constructively with the Board and the club on next steps, and to seeing the Borough Local Plan adopted by the end of the year.”

Councillor Andrew Johnson, the leader of the council, added: “I’m really surprised with the chairman’s statement since the golf club own their own land in the green belt at Harvest Hill which they’re seeking to bring forward for development.”

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