Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet has taken the decision to close Tamworth Golf Course in March 2015, following an in-depth examination of all the available options.
The Council thanked the Golf Club committee and course members for their ongoing support. However the number of users meant the course could not continued to be subsidised at the current rate. The Cabinet emphasised this was not a decision to build houses but a decison on the future of the golf course, which today only took £10. Leader of the Council, Cllr Daniel Cook, gave residents a commitment the council would consult them every step of the way.
The course is running at an estimated £100,000 loss this year and it is budgeted for a £142,000 subsidy next year. The Council has already invested £100,000 capital funds in making improvements to the course this year.
At a time when councils are facing over 40 per cent reductions in government funding, Tamworth Borough Council – which needs to identify £1.3 million in savings over the next three years with annual deficits of £2.6 million thereafter – could not justify continuing to subsidise the golf course.
Currently, the course has 230 members – 38 of which are from outside the borough – who pay an annual green fee. In addition, there are approximately 200 hundred pay and play customers.
This means that the approximate subsidy per golfer next year would be £355 per golfer. The number of pay and play customers is very low in the winter with the Course taking £40 or less on some days.
Figures show there are not enough members using the course to sustain keeping it open, despite the efforts of the staff, improvements to the course and special offers.
A report by independent company FMG Consulting shows that at least £2.3 million investment is needed to improve the club house to make the course commercially viable. The Council could not afford to invest in excess of £2m into the course without selling off at least nine-holes of the course to raise the funds.
This significant capital investment into the course is too risky; given the decline in golf nationally and locally. Research shows there is customer opposition to a nine-hole course, a very limited number of private operators interested in a nine-hole course and the likelihood of the business failing over the next few years.
The risk to the tax payer would be too high if an external company could not meet its obligations and the council could face having to subsidise the course again.
In addition, financial reports show that if the council made the £2.3 million investment over a 25 year period and a private company ran the course at a profit, the council would not see its investment paid back over that period.
Part of the land will be sold to provide much needed housing and part of the site will be used to provide a high quality and accessible parkland. A percentage of the income from the sale will be invested into leisure provision across Tamworth.
This will compensate for the loss of the golf course in terms of its impact on health and support participation in other sports.
The Council is committed to working with local residents especially those local to course as the process of developing the site moves forward. More reports will be considered by Cabinet about the process of selling the land and potential development options.
Tamworth is not the only course currently suffering; the deal to keep Keele golf course open has recently collapsed, as the operator wanted more investment from Newcastle Borough Council, which they could not afford.
Councillor Steve Claymore, Cabinet Member for Economic Development said: “This is not a decision we wanted to take, we have put everything we possibly could into the golf course in the last year to make it work, but without more people playing at the course, we just can’t support it.”
“How can we justify keeping it open when it is losing £100,000? We – like all other councils – are facing huge budget cuts, and the golf course is simply something we cannot afford to keep.”
He added: “There are pressures on all public services; currently the County Council is consulting on changes to adult services, youth services and facilities for disabled people across the county. If councils are struggling to fund such vital services, facilities such as golf courses are a luxury we do not have the finances to justify.
“We cannot continue to keep subsiding the course at the rate we have been, when we need to make major budget cuts across the entire council. We need to ensure we can continue to provide essential services for those who need it.”
Following the decision, the golf course will remain open until March 2015. This is subject to the number of customers using the course. Current members will be contacted ahead of the green fee renewal date with a revised tariff.
The money generated by the sale could potentially support other sports and leisure provision in the town and by investing in other sports; this could generate more participation in activities than current levels at the golf course.
The council’s cabinet met to discuss the four options available, which have each undergone months of research:
1) Retention of an 18-hole golf course, remodelling and disposal of part of the site
2) Complete disposal of site, with any income generated to contribute to wider strategic aims, including leisure provision and town centre regeneration schemes;
3) Retention of 18-hole golf course, plus development of clubhouse, gym and other leisure facilities, with course to be run and managed by an outside company;
4) Retention of nine holes, development of clubhouse, gym and other leisure facilities, again to be run by an external company or in house, and the disposal of nine holes for development