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13th October 2020

Golf Course Redevelopment or Diversification Planning (Part 1)


13th October 2020

Golf Course Redevelopment or Diversification Planning (Part 1)

Golf course redevelopment or diversification are anxious considerations being given by some golf course owners and investors. Golf clubs all over Britain, many dating back over a century, are closing at an alarming rate. Changing social and economic trends have led to reduced participation and memberships levels at some clubs.

Golf course redevelopment or diversification – What should you consider?

Such potential options require extremely careful foresight of the planning implications in order to avoid costly mistakes.

De-risking through early planning consultancy advice

If you are a golf course owner or stakeholder concerned at such trends, it is very important to understand the importance of instructing a planning consultant at the very outset of your thinking. An experienced planning consultant who understands your sector will be able to:

  • undertake an early appraisal of your development options (helping you to fully understand the risks and opportunities of different types of proposed developments);
  • help you to avoid embarking on ill-thought through development proposals (potentially saving you significant time and costs on abortive expert third party consultants’ fees);
  • advise you in relation to all aspects of the planning system (helping you to go into development projects with your eyes wide open as to the potential planning risks and opportunities);
  • prepare, submit and manage planning applications on your behalf through all stages of the planning system (including liaising with other technical consultants and architects needing procuring.)

De-risking through ongoing planning consultancy advice with legal knowledge

An experienced planning consultant based within a regional law firm who also has staff who are members of the Consultation Institute will also reassuringly be well placed to:

  • provide seamless advice from planning solicitors whenever issues arise which require such expertise;
  • provide advice and representation in relation to any required community consultation;
  • provide advice in relation to rights of way, environmental impact assessments and waste licencing;
  • provide an ongoing awareness of the legal and planning policy environment – the importance of which cannot be overstated in reducing risks and also in maximising opportunities.

For example, cases such as the High Court case of Dartford Borough Council v Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government (CO/4129/2015) have been of particular interest to anybody looking to develop or diversify land in the countryside by holding that residential gardens outside of “built up areas” were “brownfield land” and not “greenfield land”. This was significant because Paragraph 111 of the NPPF provides that brownfield land ought to be prioritised.

Seizing and maximising finite development opportunities

There is great sadness at the increasing loss of golf course land across the UK. Although the gap in such treasured local facilities will never fully be replaced for many involved in their operation, the current planning and political landscape does have the potential to offer the reassurance that their development into new land uses can have a transformative impact in helping to positively improve lives and elevate economies.

Some golf course redevelopments have for example included the potential for miles of new cycle paths, the creation of new pedestrian accesses, the creation of new community woodland, extensions to Nature Reserves, the building of a new primary school, high-quality homes including affordable homes for rent and shared ownership and new commercial centres with the potential for a doctor’s surgery, pharmacy, shop, pub and restaurant.

For those wishing to maintain their current golf course but utilise spare land to complement their existing business they may well be considering glamping/camping/lodges; festivals (food, music or other); weddings; adventure golf; kids play areas; woodland opportunities; gyms, spas and other outdoor activities.

Planning obligations and costs to developers?

Developers will often be asked to contribute significant sums of money through Section 106 agreements to help towards making proposed developments acceptable and to mitigate against any adverse impacts on local infrastructure or habitats.

Planning consultants based within law firms can seamlessly liaise with planning solicitors to ensure that they provide you with prompt and robust advice and representation in relation to negotiating with the Council on your behalf in relation to these issues.

Further information

If you are in the position of looking to develop golf course land and you would like to discuss this issue further please contact a member of our experienced planning team.

You can also now read Part 2 of this article  which looks at ‘Planning policy issues around golf course redevelopment‘.

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