Not on our Golf Course! 'Improvements' by Jack Barker Golf at Risebridge Golf Course, Romford.
As part of the ‘improvement’ of Basildon Golf Course, Basildon District Council has approved plans drawn up by 'Jack Barker Golf' to import 120,000 cubic metres of ‘inert material’ in phase 1 alone; a large tipper lorry can carry 15 cubic metres so this is the equivalent of 8,000 lorry loads. The landfill will be used to create a driving range and to start the process of creating mounds of earth up to 6 metres (20 feet high) between the fairways; this would easily cover a double decker bus - the famous red London Routemaster is 4.4 metres high. In addition we estimate that 167 semi-mature trees will be destroyed in the process. Plans for the total development total involve 312,000 cubic metres (20,800 lorry loads).
We object to these plans for the following reasons.
1. Professionally designed in 1967 on former farmland now owned by Basildon District Council, Basildon Golf Course is on undulating green-belt land within a mile of the town centre. Its fairways are lined with trees and it is home to a wide range of wildlife. In the view of experienced golfers, the course itself does not need improving in the way that the developer describes.
2. In the Phase 1, the developer plans to create a driving range constructed from the imported material. On the north side there will be a steep bank of earth some 300 metres long and some 6 metres (20feet) high – roughly the height of the guttering/eaves on two-storey houses. This bank will be less than 22 metres from the boundary with some of the nearby residential properties. On the south side the infill of material will extend to meet the side of the natural hills. The total area to be filled with inert landfill is approximately 300 metres by 200 metres.
3. In our view the demand for the driving range has not been proven. Basildon Golf Course already has two large areas that are used for driving practice. Just 4.5 miles away at Langdon Hills Golf Club (which has three golf courses and residential accommodation) the driving range was recently closed because of lack of demand. There is still a driving range 4 miles away (at the Belvedere, Crays Hill) while two further ranges are within 6 miles (at Dunton and at Rayleigh). During three visits to Jack Barker's Risebridge Course at Romford (a Sunday afternoon and two weekday mornings), the range there was deserted. Were a demand for a driving range at Basildon Golf Course to be established, we believe that the size, the location and the method of construction could all be improved.
4. If Phase 1 goes ahead, we believe that there will be hazards to health through dust and smaller (more hazardous) particulates, and through additional traffic congestion outside the nearby University Hospital. We believe 167 free standing semi- mature trees will be lost (plus many more smaller trees that form two 'screens' of trees) and that wildlife will be killed. Thus both the lungs and arteries of Basildon are threatened.
5. Although Natural England (a statutory consultee) no longer objects to Phase 1, they have made it clear that they will object to the development as a whole.
6. Phase 1 may also cause problems in terms of flooding. The area proposed for the driving range is at a bottom of a long low natural hill and some who have lived in the area since the adjacent houses were built can remember flooding in the 1960s in nearby streets and houses following heavy rain. Subsequent drainage work on the golf course and to the rear of residential gardens means that there have been few problems in recent years, but residents fear that the introduction of such a large volume of additional material could once again cause major problems. Drainage is one of the issues raised in the following article about potential problems arising from the use of landfill on Golf Courses
The article is reproduced in full on the final page of this website.
7. Phase 1 is due to last 16 months and will involve dumping and the use of heavy machinery to move the landfill into the position required. All nearby residents will be at least inconvenienced, but some with health problems will be trapped in their homes and unable to enjoy their gardens. A lady in her mid 70s, already on oxygen 16 hours a day because of tuberculosis earlier in her life, is one such person.
8. If the range is constructed, residents fear that there could be problems from floodlighting and from stray golf balls.
9. Elsewhere, similar proposals to improve golf courses have been rejected by local authority officers and Planning Inspectors because the excessive volumes of imported material have been seen to be ‘waste dumping’ rather than genuine improvements. This is one of the reasons why we believe that the planning process which resulted in these decisions has been flawed, and we have therefore been raising funds to apply for a Judicial Review. We learned in April that our Application for a Judicial Review had been successful, and the hearing took place on Friday 7th November 2008 in the High Court in The Strand. Although the Judge may announce his decision before Christmas, it is more likely that he will do this early in 2009.
10. However, even if Judicial Review judgement is made in our favour, Basildon District Council will only be required to review the planning process leading to the decision last September and might be sympathetic to a revised application. We hope that you will support us in persuading them to change their minds: we know that other organizations are interested in leasing the course and improving it without changing it for ever with huge quantities of landfill.
11. In the meantime we have found that we are not alone, and that other groups are fighting broadly similar proposals from the same and other developers. By working together we have managed to get questions raised in Parliament and a review of policy has been promised. For details of other sites see 'The Wider Picture' and subsequent pages.
Risebridge Golf Course, Romford, November 2007.
Risebridge Golf Course, November 2007; plans suggest that the 'improved' Basildon course, which currently has thousands of trees and a wide range of wildlife, could look like this