Thursday, 24 January 2019

Golf club switches to new developer after move deal

A GOLF club that plans to relocate and sell its current site for new housing has switched its developer partner.

Reading Golf Club, which occupies a 96-acre site off Kidmore End Road in Emmer Green, has ended its partnership with the Wates Group, of Leatherhead, which had agreed to buy the land if planning permission for 700 homes was granted.

It is now working with Fairfax Acquisitions, from Bolney, West Sussex.

Club chairman Colin Reed said: “Given an uncertain future in a very challenging market, Reading Golf Club has engaged with potential development partners aiming to ensure a long-term future for the club and a way forward that best supports the community in and around Emmer Green.

“We thank Wates for their initial work with us and now congratulate Fairfax on becoming our preferred partner.

Reading Golf Club is impressed with their desire to work with people locally and on their commitment to deliver top quality and sensitive development.”

Fairfax managing director Jonathan Ball said: “We are fully committed to this project and bring a wealth of knowledge and experience within both the golf and property industries. Fairfax takes pride in its approach to community engagement.”

Members of the club voted to proceed with the move at a general meeting in August. Out of the 491 who were eligible to vote, 383 took part with 319 in favour, a majority of 83 per cent. All members are shareholders so would each receive thousands of pounds if the land sale goes ahead.

It is expected that the work on the development would begin in 2020 and the existing 18-hole course would stay in use until then.

Most of the course is in South Oxfordshire and was put forward as a possible “strategic site” for housing in the district council’s local plan but was not included in the final draft, which is currently subject to public consultation.

The other 3.75 acres, which include the clubhouse and car park, have been earmarked for 130 homes in Reading Borough Council’s draft local plan, although Reading East MP Matt Rodda has asked for it to be removed.

Sport England and England Golf both support the plans.

The club says it is struggling with competition from other courses and to attract enough new members. It needs to spend £700,000 on a new irrigation system and pay for a new borehole pump and greenkeeper’s offices, a new roof and kitchen for the clubhouse, resurfacing the car park and improved security but even this wouldn’t guarantee an increase in revenue.

It has not revealed how much it would receive from the land sale but would use some of the money to fund the relocation, which would be necessary to secure planning permission for the housing.

The Keep Emmer Green lobby group has expressed concern at the proposal, saying it would put excessive strain on surrounding roads.

Spokesman Julian Ansell said: “This change of developer comes as a surprise, although I understand it’s normal to chop and change with projects such as this.”

Wates had promised to contribute towards a new secondary school and a new park and ride scheme as well as expanding Emmer Green Primary School, relocating the GP surgery and building a new pre-school.

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