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Marketing of Whitewebbs Park Golf Course

Plans to lease 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 had an excellent response, receiving eighteen high-quality submissions. These proposed a wide variety of 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, as has been suggested by some parties.

Review by the council

The submitted bids have been reviewed and the council has received advice from independent planning specialists for each proposed use. This advice, along with community and stakeholder feedback, has influenced how the council has approached the second stage of marketing.

Also, in response to feedback from residents, the requirements have been 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 don’t meet these criteria will not be considered.

Decision on a preferred bid

We will confirm the preferred bidder by April 2020. Local ward members will be invited to observe the final presentation. Following the announcement of the preferred bidder, a public drop-in event will be arranged. The preferred bidder will be available to share their proposals and answer questions about them.

The proposals and an online information page will also be made available, to provide accessibility to residents unable to attend the drop-in session. A final decision about going ahead with the preferred bidder will then be made, in consultation with cabinet members.

Afterwards, the council will work towards agreeing the lease terms with the preferred bidder. Upon signing a time-limited agreement, the bidder will then be expected to submit all relevant planning applications. The lease will not be signed until the bidder has secured the required planning permission for their proposed use.

Plans to lease Whitewebbs Park Golf Course

Whitewebbs Park Golf Course is currently being 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.

Current progress with the marketing process

On 19 December 2019, the council began the second stage of the marketing of Whitewebbs. This means we have gone back to all bidders 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 must make their final submissions by 2 March 2020. All submissions that meet the council’s requirements will be assessed and scored, based on the published scoring matrix.

Requirements of bidders

All submissions will be subject to assessment and scoring.

We have also 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 leisure activities. Non-leisure proposals will not be considered.

Any proposals that don't meet the council’s strict criteria will not be considered.

Assessment of submissions

Submissions will be evaluated and scored by a panel of council officers, which will consist of experts representing planning, property, commercial, parks, leisure and finance, with legal represented in an advisory capacity. This is to make sure of a balanced and fully informed evaluation outcome. The final decision will be made following public engagement as outlined below, and in consultation with Cabinet members.

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

Changes to how the park or facilities will be used

Rather than reducing access to the park, the council wants to award a lease to a leisure provider who will offer a wider and more inclusive benefit to the local community, in line with planning policies.

Local people will see an improvement in facilities and no loss of activities such as dog walking, bike riding, horse riding and cafe provision, for example. In fact, the intention is to increase use of the park to more of the community after the investment.

Bidders were required to show a wide and inclusive benefit to the local community, in line with planning policies and that met with the council’s criteria, which were:

  • enhancement of public access
  • maintenance of woodland and open areas
  • a more inclusive range of activities
  • better provision of refreshments and welfare facilities
  • community engagement
  • the future of Whitewebbs Park

We will know the future use of the park after the final bids have been evaluated and a preferred bidder chosen. We expect this to be around April 2020.

Many of the proposals received in the first marketing round included keeping golf facilities; some propose reducing the course to 9-holes; some propose adding driving ranges or other complementary facilities.

Other proposals didn't include golf, but do propose other leisure uses or re-wilding of the landscape, nature or wildlife reserves and other outdoor and woodland pursuits.

Why the council is leasing Whitewebbs Park Golf Course

Since 2014/15 the council has worked to greatly 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, the golf course has operated at a loss for several years and, in the last few years, the number of rounds played has dropped significantly in line with national trends. Enfield and the surrounding area is well served by golf courses, so as well as inviting proposals from experienced golf course operators it’s appropriate to also consider other leisure uses.

Why the park woodland has been included in the marketing

The council has given 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.

Bidders are not required to include the entire park within their bids, and any future uses would need to comply with planning, including compliance with all requirements of its ancient woodland status.

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 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.

Protecting the greenspace and open amenity at Whitewebbs

There is no loss of green or amenity space proposed at Whitewebbs. In fact, the council is seeking for it to be enhanced by any future lessee.

Public input over preferred bidders

Once a preferred bidder has been chosen, the council will arrange for a public engagement day to take place. At this event, the preferred bidder will be available to share their proposals and answer questions about them. As part of any planning process, there will be the usual statutory consultation period where the local community will have the opportunity to comment.