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THRIVING: Golf club closure met with huge anger

THRIVING: Golf club closure met with huge anger

Brackenwood Golf Course in Bebington, Wirral, Image: LDRS

Reports that a “thriving” Merseyside golf course may close have been met with huge anger.

Cllr Jerry Williams, who represents Bebington in Wirral, said council officials put forward a plan to close Brackenwood Golf Course and turn it into an ‘eco park’ at a non-public workshop last night.

The council insists the workshop was not specifically looking at closing down the course, but was a discussion about long term options for golf courses in the borough.

The Bebington course is one of four public golf courses in Wirral, with The Warren in Wallasey, Arrowe Park Golf Course and Hoylake Municipal also operated by the council.

golf course

Brackenwood’s club secretary, Keith Marsh, was outraged by the news, Image: LDRS

At the end of last year, when the local authority was looking at ways to plug a £16.5m shortfall in its budget, a proposal to close three of the courses saving £180,000 was put forward.

This would have left Hoylake as the only municipal, as it was needed to secure the Royal Liverpool’s hosting of The Open Championship in 2023.

But in the end the proposal was dropped and golfers thought their local courses were safe.

Therefore, Cllr Williams said last night’s plan came “out of nowhere”.

The Labour councillor said: “Officers suggested a cut to the number of courses, saying we need to cut one course [Brackenwood] completely.

“I appreciate that difficult decisions have to be made, but this is absolute lunacy. The membership is massively increasing. It is a thriving club in the best state it’s ever been in.”

Cllr Williams stressed that Brackenwood was a “working person’s club” and one which was loved by many.

On the eco park idea he said: “We need to have a realistic approach to this. How much will it cost to run?

“What about possible landscaping costs on top of that. Who will run it, at what cost?”

Brackenwood’s club secretary, Keith Marsh, was outraged by the news.

Speaking to the LDRS he said: “This has come out of the blue when the number of people playing at the course has gone through the roof.

“In the [second quarter] of this year the number of players has increased, and the club’s gone from strength to strength since it reopened [after Covid-19 rules changed] in March, with membership numbers up by 55%.

“It is in the best condition it’s been in for many, many years and that goes hand in hand with many people playing it.”

Mr Marsh, 46, who has played the course since he was 11, felt betrayed by Wirral Council.

He said: “We’re absolutely furious, we feel like we’ve been led up the garden path by officers.

“It seems like a knee jerk reaction, not even 12 months ago we were looking at a future for golf, it’s infuriating, pathetic.

“A lot of members can’t afford a £1,000 plus fee to go to a private club, it will force a lot of people to go elsewhere or give up the game. It seems like a crazy idea.”

The club secretary thought the eco park plan was particularly bad news.

He continued: “When the council says an eco park, they will leave it and ‘rewild’ it so they don’t have to cut it and save money. It will go to wreck and ruin and the council will say they’re rewilding it.

“We’ll get fly tipping, people will say they’re sick of it and then over time we’ll have houses on it.”

Mr Marsh also thought the eco park was not needed as Storeton Woods was just half a mile from Brackenwood Golf Course.

Responding to the comments, Cllr Helen Cameron, Chair of the Tourism, Communities, Culture and Leisure Committee, said: “This was a private workshop to allow a group of Wirral Council’s elected members and officers to generate and discuss ideas around the future long-term sustainability of the whole municipal golf service in Wirral. It was not a meeting to consider any recommendations or decisions, nor to solely discuss Brackenwood golf course.

“As elected members we have a responsibility to examine any and all potential ideas in order to make informed decisions when the time comes.

“In general, this is how any strategic process works. In this case, there is still a lot of work to do before we even see fully-formed options put forward for consultation and consideration, let alone make a decision.”

 

Words: George Morgan Local Democracy Reporter


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