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Marketing of Whitewebbs Park Golf Course

Plans to lease Whitewebbs Park Golf Course

Whitewebbs Park Golf Course has been marketed by Enfield Council. The aim of the council isn't to sell the park, but award a 25-year lease. The lease might include some surrounding land including woodland, depending on the suitability of any proposals.

Why the council is leasing Whitewebbs Park Golf Course

Since 2014/15 the council has worked to increase revenue and reduce expenditure at Whitewebbs Park, including the golf course. This has included improving the online profile and accessibility for the course, as well as running more marketing campaigns for the golf course.

However, despite this the golf course has operated at a loss for several years. Enfield and the surrounding area is well served by golf courses, so as well as inviting proposals from experienced golf course operators it was appropriate to also consider other leisure uses.

Why the park woodland was included in the marketing

The council gave bidders the opportunity to include some or all the land adjacent to the golf course, including the woodland, as part of their bids. The inclusion of the entire site was to maximise interest from a wide variety of leisure providers.

If a lease was agreed which included the woodland, this would only be considered if the use was appropriate, enhanced public access, and ensured the maintenance of the woodland and public rights of way and bridleways. Any future uses would need to comply with planning, including compliance with all requirements of its ancient woodland status.

Bidders were not required to include the entire park within their bids.

The Marketing of Whitewebbs Park Golf Course

Between August and October 2019, Enfield Council carried out a marketing exercise of Whitewebbs Park Golf Course. During this time, experienced leisure providers were invited to submit expressions of interest for the future management of Whitewebbs Park Golf Course and adjacent land, including woodland.

The council's aim of leasing Whitewebbs Park Golf Course is for the park to be rejuvenated and to be used in a way that benefits the wider local community.

Before the marketing was launched, we engaged directly with stakeholders of the park who helped us develop the stated ambitions and the scoring criteria for the bid assessment. Stakeholders also suggested ideas for future leisure uses for the park, which were included within the marketing documents.

Requirements of bidders

Bidders for the lease were required to demonstrate a wide and inclusive benefit to the community, which were in line with planning policies and met with the council's criteria. The criteria included:

  • retention or enhancement of public access
  • maintenance of woodland and open areas
  • provision of a range of activities
  • provision of refreshments and welfare facilities
  • community engagement

Response from bidders

The council received eighteen submissions. These proposed a wide variety of sport, leisure and environmentally sustainable uses of the park, including golf, rewilding and woodland pursuits.

None of the proposals involve clearing the site to create a landfill or building houses.

Review by the council

The submitted expressions of interest were reviewed and the council took advice from independent planning specialists for each proposed use. This advice, along with community and stakeholder feedback, influenced how the council has approached the second stage of marketing.

Also, in response to feedback from residents and stakeholders, the requirements were strengthened to ensure public access and facilities will be enhanced and the valued green space and woodland at Whitewebbs will be fully protected via both the bid evaluation and planning process. Any uses that didn't meet these criteria would not be considered.

The second stage of the marketing process

On 19 December 2019, the council began the second stage of the marketing of Whitewebbs. We went back to all those who submitted an expression of interest with enhanced criteria and a mandatory requirement to undergo a planning pre-application submission. This has given them a chance to provide more detailed final submissions to the council.

Bidders were required to make their final submissions by 2 March 2020. All submissions that met the council's requirements would be assessed and scored, based on a published scoring matrix.

Enhanced requirements of bidders

We specified that:

  • all bidders must obtain pre-planning application advice from the council's Planning team, for their proposed future use of the park. Without this advice, bids will not be considered.
  • for bids involving any landscaping within the park, bidders must clearly show that their business plan is not based on soil importation
  • all bids are required to consist of outdoor based leisure activities. Non-leisure proposals will not be considered.

Bidders were required to show a wide and inclusive benefit to the local community, in line with planning policies and the Council Plan. The council's criteria were also amended from the first phase to take into account public feedback, now requiring bids to demonstrate:

  • enhancement of public access - the council is seeking a proposal that will enhance the existing level of public access and maintain all current public rights of way going forward
  • retention and maintenance of woodland and open areas - the property provides an important habitat and open space for wildlife and local residents. Applicants must explain how these areas will be enhanced and managed in their proposals, detailing clearly where there will be improvements.
  • a more inclusive range of activities - the acceptable proposed use must be outdoor leisure or sport led. Proposals with no element of outdoor leisure use will not be considered.
  • better provision of refreshments and welfare facilities - all submissions must include provision of refreshments and welfare facilities to all users of the park, not just users of the proposal
  • ongoing community engagement - all bids should detail how the tenant proposes to engage with the community and stakeholders. The applicant was required to provide a comprehensive communication plan which, as a minimum, should include details of using social media and a website to provide details of their plans for Whitewebbs and provide updates. The new tenant will be required to provide digital and traditional platforms for engagement with the local community that allows for feedback.

Assessment of submissions

Six bids were received by 2 March and were evaluated and scored by a panel of council officers, representing planning, property, commercial, parks, leisure and finance, with legal represented in an advisory capacity. This was to make sure of a balanced and fully informed evaluation outcome.

65% of the score related to the bid meeting the criteria, the relevant experience of the bidders and the viability of the proposal. Only 35% of the score related to the rent or premium offered.

It was intended to confirm a preferred bidder or bidders by April 2020 but shortly after the evaluation we were of course affected by the global pandemic and the priorities of the council and bidders changed. One of the bids was subsequently withdrawn.

As we start to move out of the current lockdown we are recommencing the process and expect to make an announcement regarding next steps regarding the leasing of the park shortly.

Closure of the golf course

In the meantime, a decision will be taken not to reopen the golf course when government restrictions allow and the following statement was released on 15 March 2021:

Whitewebbs Golf Course has been making a financial loss for a number of years despite the introduction of measures designed to increase income and reduce costs at the site. Since 2014/15 the golf club has lost more than £1.1million.

Since 2010 Enfield Council has been forced to find £193 million of savings because of government funding cuts and increasing pressure on services.

At a time of national crisis when our priority is protecting all of our communities and providing support for our most vulnerable residents, it would be irresponsible of Enfield Council to continue to use tax-payers money to subsidise an activity that is well provided for elsewhere across the borough.

Enfield has six full length courses and a pitch and putt course available for golfers.

In reality the Whitewebbs Golf Course has been closed for much of the last year and Enfield Council is currently in a process to determine the future of the site. This decision was taken and published in March 2019. Unfortunately, this process has been delayed because the coronavirus pandemic has affected the immediate priorities of the council and the applicants.

Enfield Council has consistently been clear that among other considerations, applicants must meet the needs of the wider community and any proposed future use of the site must increase community access to Whitewebbs for walking, recreation, leisure and other uses.

Any suggestion that the site will be used for housing or landfill are utter nonsense and scaremongering.

Enfield Council will be in a position to announce the next steps in the very near future.

In the meantime whilst the course will be closed to golf, the site will remain open for walking, jogging and other recreational use.

Potential of soil importation at Whitewebbs

The council is not seeking to award a lease to change Whitewebbs Park Golf Course to a landfill.

We are aware that if golf use was to be kept, bidders are likely to want to remodel or modify the course and make it more attractive to the golf market. Golf course remodelling typically includes importing soil to assist in the landscaping of the course.

Any development, including remodelling of landscape or changes of use to the site, will be subject to planning permission and will need to comply with national and local planning polices, which seek to protect green and open spaces. Any soil importation would require an applicant to show that soil importation would not lead to an unacceptable environmental or ecological impact.

For any proposal that requires planning consent, a lease will not be entered until a planning consent has been granted. As part of our assessment we would consider the scale, suitability and impact of those proposals in the context of delivering a viable and acceptable proposal. Any proposal based simply on importing soil would not be considered as acceptable.

We have not received any submission which proposes to change the park into a landfill.

Bidders criteria

Before launching the second stage of marketing the requirements for bidders were enhanced.

Five qualifying requirements were detailed to bidders and any bids that didn't meet with all these requirements will not be considered. The five qualifying requirements are:

  • Lease term of 25 years, to be contracted out of Sections 24-28 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954
  • The acceptable proposed use must, be outdoor leisure or sport led. Proposals with no element of leisure use will not be considered.
  • All bidders had to submit a pre-application planning advice request by 27 January 2020 and the outcome of the pre-app advice will form a key part of the evaluation
  • Any bids that include imported material for landscaping will be required to demonstrate that the importation is essential for a viable leisure/sport led business following completion of the importation
  • The preferred bidder(s) will be required to engage with the public once selected and bids must provide a comprehensive communication plan

All qualifying bids were evaluated by a panel of appropriately qualified council officers, using a predetermined scoring matrix. The scoring matrix sets out the five following scoring categories and the weightings each category is given to the overall evaluation score:

  1. Meeting the council's objectives (detailed below) - 30%
  2. Pre-application planning advice - 10%
  3. The applicant's experience in comparable leisure uses - 10%
  4. The applicant's financial standing and business plan - 15%
  5. Rent/premium offered - 35%

Stakeholder engagement

The following stakeholders were engaged prior to the marketing exercise and their views taken into account in developing the criteria and marketing materials:

  • The Friends of Whitewebbs Park
  • The Friends of Hilly Fields
  • The Greenbelt Forum
  • Whitewebbs Golf Club
  • Whitewebbs Golf Club Users
  • Ward councillors

We have committed to engaging more widely with stakeholder groups before a lease is entered in to and the following stakeholders have been added to the list:

  • Woodland Trust
  • Enfield Scouts
  • Butterfly Conservation Hertfordshire and Middlesex
  • Enfield Age UK
  • North London and South Herts Ramblers Association
  • Enfield Sport
  • Enfield Cycle Campaign
  • NW London RSPB
  • Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

Golf club finances

The following is an extract from the council's accounts for the golf club. The figures are different from that published in the marketing literature as a new operator may not take on existing assets and will be responsible for accounting for their investment and overhead projections in their own business plans.

Whitewebbs Golf Course total income and expenditure summary

Expenditure 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19
Employee costs
£114,126
£100,436
£89,638
£96,255
£96,394
Third party payments
£0
£0
£0
£850
£614
Transfer payments
£191
£99
£87
£1,362
£263
Premises related expenditure
£80,024
£78,725
£94,767
£90,325
£99,885
Transport related expenditure
£90
£6,523
£1,598
£212
£52
Supplies and services
£59,682
£48,317
£55,709
£88,788
£22,336
Controllable internal recharges
£115,751
£120,009
£113,531
£112,126
£111,465
Controllable expenditure total
£369,864
£354,110
£355,329
£389,918
£331,009
Capital charges (depreciation)
£194,473
£70,145
£76,037
£71,138
£92,426
Overheads
£62,427
£85,851
£74,139
£74,139
£74,139
Uncontrollable expenditure total
£256,900
£155,996
£150,176
£145,277
£166,565
Total expenditure
£626,764
£510,106
£505,505
£535,195
£497,574
Income 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19
Green fees
-£201,112
-£201,983
-£236,604
-£201,568
-£193,308
Membership
-£38,961
-£39,130
-£29,292
-£48,160
-£43,589
Retail
-£33,119
-£33,263
-£32,422
-£31,262
-£39,566
Hire
-£31,900
-£32,039
-£36,644
-£31,204
-£32,196
F&B
-£12,283
-£12,336
-£15,688
-£16,675
-£6,511
Mobile catering concession/café
-£20,000
-£22,000
-£14,000
-£14,000
-£14,000
Total income
-£337,376
-£340,750
-£364,650
-£342,870
-£329,169
Net cost 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19
Net expenditure and income
£289,388
£169,355
£140,856
£192,326
£168,405
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You can also view Whitewebbs Golf Course total income and expenditure summary (PDF).