Thursday, 06 August 2020
A GOLF club that plans to sell its land for housing says it will leave by no later than March 31, 2021.
Reading Golf Club, which occupies a 96-acre site off Kidmore End Road in Emmer Green, is to merge with Caversham Heath Golf Club, which occupies land owned by the Mapledurham Estate.
The clubs say that if they remained separate their long-term viability would be under threat.
Reading Golf Club is working with Fairfax Acquisitions, of West Sussex, which hopes to build up to 700 homes on the land.
Almost four acres of the site are earmarked for 130 homes in Reading Borough Council’s draft local plan.
The rest of the site was put forward as a “strategic housing site” in South Oxfordshire District Council’s new local plan but it was not included in the final document.
The club has not revealed how much it would receive from the sale of the land but says it would use some of the money to fund the move. The club’s board agreed the departure date at a meeting last week.
Club chairman Colin Reed said: “The over-provision of golf in the immediate region, combined with a downturn in the number of golfers nationally, has meant that something radical must happen to ensure the survival of both golf clubs.
“We have budgeted to absorb these losses for two seasons but unfortunately some large, unexpected and unwarranted legal challenges have brought the financial position to such a point that the move cannot be delayed beyond March 31, 2021.
“The land in Emmer Green has been identified for future housing development and funds from the club’s development partners are being used to ensure a long-term sustainable model at Caversham Heath Golf Club.”
He said people should welcome the opportunity for “much-needed family housing, including affordable homes, with significant publicly accessible open space”. Mr Reed said: “We understand that for development to happen, appropriate traffic improvements, coupled with an essential new medical facility, will be required and this should help to offset some of the concerns over the development. That, however, is for the council to work on.
“It will, without doubt, be a sad day for the club when we leave Emmer Green, but the golfing industry is facing some challenging times and unfortunately our current home does not allow us the opportunity and space required to meet modern requirements.
“Clubs with standalone 18-hole courses and little to no additional facilities are facing the greatest challenges for survival and we are not prepared to let this 109-year-old club be another sad statistic.
“The bold steps the board and its members have been prepared to take will ensure the legacy of both clubs long into the future. With Caversham Lawn Tennis Club also considering a move on to adjacent land, the prospect of a regionally renowned ‘sporting hub’ is a real possibility.”
The new combined club will be renamed Reading and Caversham Heath Golf Club.
The course is currently being refurbished and will be renamed the Eyston Course after the late Jack Eyston, a former trustee of the Mapledurham Estate and founder of Caversham Heath Golf Club.
Mr Reed said: “The new facilities will include not only a nationally renowned course but also an academy course, which we believe is crucial to the future of golf.
“This will offer a pathway into the sport and will be crucial in encouraging greater junior, female and family participation.”
• In November, members of Caversham Lawn Tennis Club voted to move to the Mapledurham Estate rather than staying in Queensborough Drive and upgrading the facilities. The club will sell the existing three-acre plot for a potential £4.5 million.
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