The events which have resulted in our protest; how you can help us.

Basildon Golf Course, November 2007

A few years ago this municipally-run golf course was home to a golf club with lots of members, a thriving junior section and a history of success in competitions. Described on the Councilís own website as covering 164 acres of attractive undulating countryside less than a mile from the centre of Basildon, views of the course are enjoyed by local residents; many walk on the footpaths, some with their dogs. In addition, the Golf Course is home to a variety of wildlife including badgers, slowworms and great-crested newts. It forms a major part of the Langdon Hills Ridge network of Country Parks.

In April 2004 Basildon Council decided to lease off the course. There were 4 bidders, one of which was a company formed by members of the Golf Club. However, the Council decided in favour of a bid from Jack Barker Golf, an organisation that already runs a number of Golf Courses in England and Wales. The bid said that the company would make 'improvements' to the Golf Course and its facilities; in the written summary of their bid there is no mention of the introduction of landfill.

During the following years, membership of the golf club declined. For example, uncertainty about the lease on the Clubhouse meant that bookings for functions such as wedding receptions could not be taken, while the facility for members to pay fees monthly was withdrawn. Plans for the golf course were said to have been drawn up but could not be seen by Councillors or by members of the public. In time, falling demand meant that the once-thriving clubhouse was closed two days a week.

Eventually the detailed plans became clear to local residents just a few days before a meeting of the Council's Development Control Committee on 11 September 2007. Proposals for Phase 1 (just 4 of the 18 holes and less than one fifth of the course area) involve
- cutting down 167 free-standing semi-mature trees together with many other trees that form part of two 'screens' of trees; plans show only 30 mature trees standing in the phase 1 area
- the importation of 120,000 cubic metres of material variously described as 'spoil from building sites', 'rubble' and 'inert matter'; this will involve 56 'lorry movements' a day for 16 months
- the use of landfill 6 metres (20 feet) high/deep to form the sides of a driving range.Residents on the north side of the driving range will no longer look out onto a flat parkland area which continues for around 200 metres until it meets the bottom of the natural hills; instead they will look out on a steep bank at places just 22 metres from the end of back gardens which is as high as the guttering/eaves on the average two-story house. The following photograph gives an impression of the 'view' that the Basildon residents living in Curlew Cresent and Ravensdale will have if Phase 1 the development goes ahead; other properties may be similarly affected in Phase 2

The side of the driving range at Risebridge Golf Club, Romford; sadly, the actual height planned for the side of the driving range in Basildon is probably even higher .

- the creation of mounding between the fairways; again this will be 6 metres (20 feet) high and hundreds of trees will need to be cut down to accommodate it; in the interests of accuracy we have asked the Council exactly how many trees will be cut down, and they have replied saying that 'the exact number of trees to be removed is not known'.

Building a mound at Risebridge Golf Club, Romford, November 2007

What kind of volume of landfill is 120,000 cubic metres? Here are 2 questions for you.

Assume that a tipper lorry is 8 metres long and can carry 15 cubic metres. Question 1: how many lorries will be required to dump the material onto the golf course? Question 2: If all these lorries were parked one behind the other, would the line of lorries stretch (a) to Central London (b) to Stansted Airport or (c) to Colchester?

Photograph: Tipper Lorry at Risebridge Park, Romford. 12/11/07

Answers. Question 1: 8,000 lorries. Question 2: The line of lorries would stretch 64 km. Stansted Airport (59.4 km) and Colchester (61.8 km) are both correct, but Central London (just 51 kilometres away) is not far enough!

A third way of getting a picture of the volume involved is to use the photographs on this website of Risebridge, and to compare them with what is planned at Basildon. At Risebridge Golf Course Romford, Jack Barker Golf has planning permission to import 135,000 cubic metres of landfill for 'improvements'. The photographs were taken at the end of the second year of work at Risebridge so, assuming an even rate of importation, the volume imported so far will be 100,000 cubic metres; this has been used not only to construct the newer earth-covered mounding where grass has yet to grow but also the driving range and the older mounding now covered in grass. Compare this with the volume of 120,000 cubic metres that has been agreed for the first phase of the work at Basildon, while the total planned for Basildon is 312,000 cubic metres.

Papers show that the planning application ( no. 07/00375/FULL) had been the subject of consultation prior to the meeting. Early in the application it is claimed that 'the proposed re-contouring and mounding are considered to enhance and simplify the course making it more attractive to a greater number of people.' However in the conclusions it is stated that ' the proposals form part of the proposed improvement plans for the Golf Course as a whole, to improve and upgrade the facility and to provide opportunities for new golfers to take up the sport and for more accomplished golfers to improve their game'. Some may find it hard to imagine how a course can both be 'simplified and enhanced' and appeal to both new golfers and more accomplished golfers!!

Objections from External Consultees were reported as to be as follows.

Basildon Natural History Society: objected to the importation of material, the effect on topography and landscape quality, the temporary access breaching the bank in Nethermayne, and the effects on floodlighting.
Essex Wildlife Trust: objects on the grounds of insufficient information regarding key protected species, the import of material and floodlighting.
The Campaign to Protect Rural Essex: expresses concern regarding the principle of a golf driving range and light pollution from the proposed floodlights.

Objections from Internal Consultees were reported to be as follows.

Aboricultural Officer: objection to loss of trees, potential bark wounding and long term damage to retained oak tree by ball strike.

Neighbours: 38 responses have been received objecting to the proposal on the grounds of increased noise and disturbance, increased traffic, detrimental impact of floodlighting, danger from balls being hit into gardens, impact on wildlife, loss of outlook and concern regarding the source of the imported material. (Note that the report does not say how many 'neighbours' were consulted and how much time they were given to reply: over 50 people attended the meeting)

The meeting lasted over 3 hours. In spite of vociferous protests, Mrs Sylvia Buckley (chair) recommended approval, and with support from fellow conservative Councillors Anne Blake, Geoff Buckenham, and Frank Tomlin the plans were approved. (Labour Councillors Lynda Gordon and Danny Nandenwar voted against)

These proposals raise a huge number of issues about the environment and health, wildlife and the quality of life. The also raise issues about who is to benefit financially if these proposals go ahead. When bidding, Jack Barker Golf said that £940k would be invested in the course on a new driving range, a new clubhouse etc, but the individual items were not costed and no time deadlines were given. When we first published this website, information from other sources suggested that the developer would receive at least £100 per load for dumping inert landfill, so if tipper lorries carrying 15 cubic metres are used, 8,000 lorries will be required for phase 1 and the income will be £800,000. However, if Basildon Council also approve the second phase, a further 192,000 cubic metres will be dumped and the additional income to the developer could be £1,280,000.

At the time of the bid the stated income to Basildon Council was just £65k from year 4. However, the council is likely to be faced with the cost of processing a large number of claims for reduction in Council tax from many of the 100+ properties which back onto the course. There will also be loss of income if less Council tax is received. The Council may also be faced with increased insurance premiums to cover possible damage from flooding. It is therefore hard to see how the Council will benefit from these proposals. (Our request for further financial information about was been refused on the grounds of 'commercial confidentiality')

At the end of January 2008 we made contact with people who had been leading the protests about Jack Barker's activities at Risebridge Golf Course Romford. Jack Barker Director Ron Maydon is said to have told residents that he can get £300 per lorry load dumped/used for improvements. This would mean that the income received from phase 1 at Basildon would be £2,400,000 while the income for the whole scheme will be £6,240,000. Whether and to what extent any of that income would be shared with Basildon District Council remains unknown because of 'commercial confidentiality'.

Please help us stop this development. Because of the heavy vehicles, the noise, the dust and the health-damaging small particulates that can affect a wide area, landfill sites are typically in rural areas, not within a mile of a town centre, surrounded by housing, schools and a sports club, and with a major hospital, hospice and college all nearby. As time has gone on, we have also become concerned about the impact of the proposed driving range on flooding and drainage - most of the landfill in phase 1 will be used to form a driving range over an area of 300 metres by 200 metres. At the North side within 22 metres of residential gardens, there will be a steep bank of earth 6 (20 feet) metres high. This is the height of guttering on a two-story house and would more than cover a London Transport Routemaster (double decker) bus which is 4.4 metres high. On the South side the landfill will continue until it meets the slopes of the natural hills.

Some residents have lived in the adjacent properties since the houses were built in the 1960s and while the golf course was still farmland. Several have now told us that after a heavy storm in the early 1960s, flash-flooding occurred and water ran off the land, past the houses and into the streets where it caused flooding in the Sparrows Herne area; some houses were flooded. When the land became a golf course, waterlogged ground in the same area meant that considerable work had to be done on drainage so that the course could remain open in most weathers, and while there are times when local gardens can retain water, there has been no repeat of the flooding. Neverthless, we are now concerned about what will happen when water runs off the natural hills into the huge area of landfill, either because of heavy rain or because of the natural springs which some say are on the golf course hills. Where will the water go? Will adjacent properties be damaged?

Elsewhere, similar proposals made by Jack Barker Golf have been rejected by Council Officers and Planning Inspectors, mainly because they have seen it as waste-dumping (eg Streathill Farm, Wavendon and Tamworth) Where the work has gone ahead there have been complaints both about the work in progress and the final results (see, for example, the letter to Basildon Council's Chief Executive Bala Mahendran). When interviewed on BBC Radio Essex, Councillor Paul Varnsverry said that Delapre Golf Course (Northamptonshire) has been left with two large stagnant pools which Jack Barker Golf has yet to resolve - one was estimated to cover and area of 5,000 square metres. He also said that it was possible that the company would be prosecuted for breaches of regulations there.

As mentioned earlier, the Planning Application was approved because it was supported by 4 Conservative Councillors - Councillor S. Buckley (Chair) A. Blake, G. Buckenham, and F. Tomlin. The Conservative - dominated Basildon District Council is led by Councillor Malcolm Buckley. Please help us persuade these and other Conservative Councillors to re-consider their decision - ways in which you might help us are detailed on page 6, and any one of the approaches listed there may help; we are finding that there is no simple way of stopping a scheme like this, but even at this late stage a lot of small contributions could combine to do so.

In spite of our best efforts, the contract for Jack Barker Golf to start managing the course was signed in December 2007. Accordingly we concluded that the the only way of getting the Development Control Committee to reconsider its decision would be to apply for and hopefully obtain a Judicial Review; if we are successful, a High Court Judge will order the Council to review its decision.

We have therefore been trying to raise enough money to cover the legal fees involved in the two-stage legal process - the Application for the Judicial Review and then the Review itself. we have been advised that a minimum of £12,000 is required for the application alone in case costs are awarded against us. Following widespread support from local residents including a very successful fundraising evening on Friday 11 January this initial target has been reached.

There are two main ways that we would welcome your help. First, as just explained, we need help in raising funds. From the outset our legal team have told us that we have a strong case and this view has been supported by the fact that we were given permission for the Judicial Review without a hearing. However, there remains the possibility that the final judgement will be made against us and costs awarded against us too. So please donate to our funds if you can; if the money is not required we will be returning as much as possible to donors.

Second, we need to change views among the Conservative Councillors - otherwise, if we do win a Judicial Review, the council will simply repeat the process and confirm the original (or very similar) decision.

If these proposals do go ahead we believe that health will be endangered, trees and wildlife destroyed, and an area of natural beauty will be lost for ever. We believe that our children and grandchildren will simply see banks of grass-covered rubble sprinkled with saplings where once there were glorious open views between mature trees.

At least three organisations remain interested in running Basildon Golf Course without the importation of any inert landfill. Please help us to overturn this terrible decision by Basildon District Council's Development Control and Traffic Management Committee.