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Debate tees off on future of Blackwell and Stressholme golf courses, in Darlington
8:00am Wednesday 5th September 2012 in News
Q What would the deal involve for both sides?
THE proposal would see the council sell Stressholme to Blackwell Grange Golf Club, with the creation of a single club from both memberships, at a deferred cost of £500,000.
In the other part of the deal, the council would take full ownership of the current Blackwell Grange Golf Club site, which straddles Carmel Road South, at a cost of £1m.
Any development of the land for low-density executive housing would not happen for several years. If planning permission was granted, the council would receive the first £1.5m of any income from a developer, covering its initial payout and the deferred cost of Stressholme.
The council and Blackwell Grange would share the proceeds of any remaining payout, expected to be millions of pounds, in a 75-25 split in favour of the golf club.
Blackwell Grange Hotel is leased separately by the council to another organisation and will not be affected by the changes.
Q Why is the council having to do this?
LIKE all local authorities, Darlington Borough Council is being forced to make millions of pounds worth of savings.
Council officials believe that on top of the £24m of savings already identified for the next three years, there will be a need to find another £10m as Government cuts start to bite deeper. As the purse strings are tightened, subsidising a public golf course is no longer an option.
Q Where will the council make savings in this plan?
THE council provides an annual subsidy to support Stressholme Golf Course, which has been increasing for the past three years. Last year, the subsidy jumped from £56,000 to £149,000 because of adverse weather conditions, which affected income and led to essential drainage works. The council has estimated it could save up to £83,000 a year if the proposal goes ahead.
Q What does this mean for public access to affordable golf facilities in Darlington?
STRESSHOLME is Darlington’s only municipal course, but the council has rejected the idea that passing ownership to the privately-run Blackwell Grange Golf Club will prevent people on low incomes taking part in the sport. The Blackwell Grange club has said it will not be able to subsidise memberships, but it will aim to be competitive and remain open to visitors and guests.
Q Are members of Blackwell Grange Golf Club likely to agree to this?
THE whole proposal could come to an end if members of Blackwell Grange do not agree to the merger. The club will hold an extraordinary meeting in November to put the proposal to a vote – 75 per cent of eligible members must agree if they are to go ahead. The plan will also go to consultation with the public in Darlington.
Q What would the timescale of any merger be? How long before development work could start?
IF Blackwell members give the go-ahead, the proposal would go before the council in January for final agreement. The merger itself would likely take place in October 2013. Any potential housing development could take up to 15 years to materialise in current economic conditions.
Initial planning would not start until at least 2014.
Q What do the potential housing development plans mean for the west end of Darlington?
THE council has outlined plans for a high-end, low density, executive development, which would be built on both sections of the existing Blackwell Grange Course. The plans suggest that no more than 60 houses would be built, each with a sizeable garden and green space around them. Blackwell Grange Hotel would not be affected.
Q What investment is needed in Stressholme?
SPECIFIC details have not yet been discussed, but Blackwell Grange Golf Club has committed to investing the proceeds of the merger, and future profit, into improving the golf course and the clubhouse at Stressholme if it were to take over.
Q What are the implications for employees of both clubs?
BOTH sets of employees were told about the proposals at a meeting yesterday. In the shortterm, nothing will change and employment law means that Stressholme staff would be transferred across and become employees of Blackwell Grange Golf Club. However, there may need to be redundancies once the merger has taken place – two sets of employees would probably not be needed to run one golf course.
- What do you think of the plans? Have your say below or via twitter using hashtag #echogolfmerger
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