Thursday, 22 November 2018

Golfers to decide whether to sell course for housing

A GOLF course could be sold to make way for hundreds of homes.

Members of Reading Golf Club are being balloted on whether to sell its land off Kidmore End Road in Emmer Green for housing.

Colin Reed, chairman of the club, has written to them to say they have until Sunday to vote on the proposal.

He says the club’s board wants the sale to an unnamed developer to go ahead but the final decision will be made by the members, who are the club’s shareholders.

If the deal is agreed, the members would each receive thousands of pounds and the club would be moved to another, unnamed, golf club and the members transferred.

But if the members vote against the club would remain as it is.

Most of the course is in South Oxfordshire and has been put forward for consideration as a major housing site in the district council’s local plan.

The other 3.75 acres, which include the clubhouse and car park, were included in Reading Borough Council’s draft local plan for 130 homes.

Mr Reed said: “The board believes that the relocation opportunity that exists now... is in the best possible interest of the golf club and its members.

“We therefore ask that shareholders now vote for that opportunity.

“We can assure you that should the shareholders decide that we should instead remain at Reading Golf Club and discontinue any plans for sale, then the board will remain committed to sustaining the club using its best endeavours into the future.”

The club is struggling with competition from other courses in the area and membership has not increased as much as it had hoped.

Mr Reed said: “It remains the case that quality courses continue to thrive but clubs in the middle ground are beginning to suffer. If we are to survive then we need to make a step change to our offering.”

He said that if the club stayed where it is it would need to invest in a £700,000 irrigation system as well as pay for a new borehole pump, a new greenkeeper’s complex, new machinery, a new roof on the clubhouse and a new kitchen, resurfacing the car park and better course security.

Mr Reed said: “These are just the known quantities. There will also inevitably be unexpected surprises around the corner.

“While clubhouse improvements may lead to increased revenue, the expenditure of the course is more of a necessity than a means to increase revenue.”

The club says it does not know what the proceeds from the sale would be. It has reached an agreement with the developer for an unconditional sum for part of its land and there is an option agreement for the rest, which would be sold if planning permission was granted.

The club would use some of the money to pay for relocation to a new home. Finding a new home is a requirement for securing planning permission.

Mr Reed said: “To sell the club purely for personal gain is not an option.”

The club worked with estate agents Haslems to oversee the proposed sale.

There were 24 bids for the land and seven bidders were invited to meet with officials. They were then asked to review and resubmit their bids before the preferred partner was chosen.

Mr Reed said: “While we are unable yet to reveal the identity of that partner, we can confirm that they are a renowned company with a terrific reputation and track record in terms of quality and community.

“Legacy has been a major consideration for us and our preferred partner has produced plans that we believe are very respectful to the neighbours we have alongside for many years.”

The club says its relocation plans have been approved by Sport England and England Golf.

The existing 18-hole course would remain in use until 2020. The club also has land off Tanners Lane, where a nine-hole course could be created.

Mr Reed said: “Once the relocation and budget for improvements, provision for additional facilities and a secure future for the club have been achieved, the club will consult with the shareholders about the distribution of additional proceeds.

“The proceeds will likely be paid in a series of tranches over several years and we are currently seeking advice regarding the tax situation arising from this.

“What we can say is that, should planning permission be achieved for what is a conservative amount of housing over the whole site, our previous estimation regarding distribution of funds may well be achievable.

“While, inevitably, we appreciate any relocation would lead to some existing members choosing not to follow the club, every effort would be made to ensure the spirit of Reading Golf Club lives on.

“The board of directors is confident that an agreement has been secured to relocate to the best possible available venue — one which would provide a sustainable and financially viable members’ club with a long-term future.”

The club was formed in 1910 after the creation of the 18-hole course. It was called the Caversham and South Oxfordshire Golf Club but changed to Reading Golf Club in 1939.

The founding members bought the farmland for the club thanks to generous investments by two men and after it formed all the assets of the club were owned by the members.

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