Saturday, 20 July 2019

Golf club to merge with neighbour after agreeing sale

A GOLF club that plans to sell off its land for housing is to merge with a nearby club.

Reading Golf Club, which occupies a 96-acre site off Kidmore End Road in Emmer Green, has announced that it is to join forces with Caversham Heath Golf Club, which is on land owned by the Mapledurham Estate.

The two have been in talks for some time and are now finalising a contract after signing heads of terms.

Members of Reading Golf Club will automatically become members of Caversham Heath Golf Club, and vice-versa, on April 1. The former will remain open for the foreseeable future.

The club said it wanted a local course which members could easily reach and has promised to make “substantial” investments to improve the course for less skilled players. It will also provide money for a nine-hole academy course and upgrades to the clubhouse and other amenities. Work on these improvements could start in the second half of next year.

General manager Gary Stangoe said: “Caversham Heath was a very attractive club as it’s very playable all year round and has a modern design with lots of land for extra practice facilities whereas we’re quite limited at the current site.

“We’re very excited, especially as Caversham Lawn Tennis Club is moving to a nearby plot which could turn this whole area into a thriving sports hub.

“However, we don’t anticipate leaving Emmer Green for at least another full golf season and it’s likely that golf will continue on at least a part of our land for a good many years to come.

“Our current development deal only focuses on a plot just outside our club office. Anything beyond that would depend on the long-term requirements of the local vicinity.”

John Ross, sales and marketing director at Caversham Heath Golf Club, said the merger had been under discussion for more than a year.

He said: “This had always been Reading Golf Club’s preferred destination and a substantial amount of money is going to be put into the operation. It should make us the best destination in the area for players of all levels. The next year or so will be a transitional period where the main priority is welcoming our new members but after that we will begin looking at the upgrade works.

“The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive with a real sense of excitement about the possibilities this opens up.

“There had been all sorts of rumours going around as there are three clubs in this small area, including The Club at Mapledurham. Everyone knows that there aren’t enough players in the catchment area to make them all viable in this day and age.

“There will, of course, be members on both sides who disagree but the vast majority are in favour because of the significant upgrades we can expect.”

Reading Golf Club is working with Fairfax Acquisitions, of West Sussex, on the project.

It hopes to build up to 700 homes on the land, of which 3.75 acres are earmarked for 130 homes in Reading Borough Council’s draft local plan. However, the final total will depend on demand.

The larger part was put forward as a “strategic housing site” in South Oxfordshire District Council’s new local plan but was not included in the final draft, which is currently under consultation.

The club said it was struggling to attract enough new members to remain viable and needed to spend at least £700,000 on upgrades but even this wouldn’t guarantee the necessary increase.

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 development.

Members backed the move at a meeting in August and will each receive thousands of pounds from the sale.

Pressure group Keep Emmer Green said it was disappointed that the golf club was leaving after more than 100 years and selling the land for development.

A spokesman said: “This will mean up to 2,000 or more cars on our roads, which will put intolerable strains on the local infrastructure and services, including GP practices and schools.

“The impact on the environment is another huge concern.”

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