Many people have written to Council Officers and to Councillors to try and persuade them to review the decision. The following are examples to show the effort that has been put in.

Bala Mahendran,
Chief Executive,
Basildon Council,
St Martin’s Square,
Basildon,
Essex.

10 October 2007.


Dear Mr Mahendran,

Proposed Landfill at Basildon Golf Course

You will know that a few years ago this golf course was home to a thriving golf club. Described on the Council’s own website as covering 164 acres of attractive undulating countryside in the centre of Basildon, you will know too those views of the course are enjoyed by local residents, and that many walk on the footpaths, some with their dogs. In addition, the Golf Course is home to a variety of wildlife including badgers.

Accordingly plans to change the Golf Course involving 120,000 cubic metres of ‘inert matter’ in phase 1 alone are viewed with horror by local residents and others. In the light of these plans we ask five things of you as Chief Executive.

First, did your Planning Department exercise their discretionary powers for wider consultation, knowing the likely public interest in the proposed developments; in particular, how many local residents were informed, and were local medical organisations (including the Primary Care Trust) asked for their views about the dust that will arise from the site?

Second, have your officers have carried out research to check that the proposed developed is not precluded by any covenants or other restrictions associated with the golf course land?

Third, would you please assure us that satisfaction given by the Jack Barker Golf Company to other Councils has been fully researched and that you are satisfied that they are fit to carry out this work which will change the character of the Golf course for ever? We ask because we have learned the following about Jack Barker Golf in the short time since their plans became public.

Rother Valley Golf Club, Sheffield: planning permission refused. The rejection stated that the proposed design did not follow guidance that the Golf Course should ‘be in harmony with the surrounding countryside and conserve the national environment’

Wavendon Golf Course, Milton Keynes: planning permission refused. There are three golf courses at this site and one of the 9 hole courses is now included in plans to build over 600 houses.

Goldenhill Golf Course, Stoke on Trent: Environment Agency officials are contemplating the prosecution of a company for what is being called 'a mindless act of vandalism' that has seen an important wildlife and fishing habitat at Goldenhill completely destroyed, and quality fish washed away leaving a dried out series of pools which could now be filled in.

Work is currently being carried out on the Stoke on Trent City Council owned golf course at Goldenhill, by contractors who the council say are working on behalf of the Jack Barker Golf Centre who currently lease the land and control the golf.

But that work is sure to bring everyone into conflict after the contractors dragged away reeds and opened up and completely drained two pools which had over the past 18 years become not only a haven for endangered species of wildlife, but also a perfect breeding ground for fish which had been used in the past to stock local waters.

Report 13 January 2005: see
www.bbc.co.uk/stoke/sport/angling/2005/janandfeb_reports.shtml

A question about this development was asked in the House of Commons
Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North): In respect of landfill sites, my right hon. Friend is right to emphasize the importance of planning decisions. Can he give a progress report on the work that he has been able to do with the Environment Agency to ensure that golf courses are not using loopholes in planning legislation inadvertently to set up landfill sites when developing golf courses? In my constituency, at Bagnall and Goldenhill, we have real fears that we will end up with waste disposal sites when what we have at the moment are golf courses.
We urge Councillors and Officers to treat with extreme caution the single letter of support regarding Goldenhill that they received from a local Councillor for two reasons. First, the writer makes no mention of the threatened prosecution described above. Second, in January 2005 at Derby Crown Court he was placed on the sex offenders’ register for five years.
Risebridge Golf Course, Romford: Residents in Beauly Way asked the Committee if it was aware that the contractors working on the golf course were causing problems, not only in the size of the causeway that was being constructed in an area that was designated as a natural drainage basin, but in the materials that were being used in its construction. The case put by the residents was reinforced by the Havering representative for the Campaign for Rural England, whose observations were that the existing works were wholly inappropriate, that in bulk and height it overlooked neighbouring properties and that the proposed results could have been achieved by the construction of a 10 metre wide low-level bund.
www.havering.gov.uk/media/pdf/l/6/061005agenda_1.pdf#688391902169441225

Delapre Golf course, Nottingham: Pictures of this development are on the following website

www.bbc.co.uk/northamptonshire/content/image_galleries/delapre_bunding_gallery.shtml?2

The following is also posted on that website:

The key issues are:

1. The local residents were not provided with the opportunity to comment on the bund construction.
The Planning Department fulfilled the minimum legal requirements in advertising the planning application. They did not exercise their discretionary powers for wider consultation, despite the public interest in and ownership of the land in question.

2. The Council has not enforced planning conditions. Work started and was allowed to continue for up to *nine months* before the required actions on the part of the contractor were fulfilled (there is documentary evidence to support this). Currently, they cannot confirm how much infill material has actually been dumped on the site or what it is (no testing has been performed - this was a planning condition proposed by the County Council's Environment team).

3. The bund will restrict access to the parklands - particularly for the young, the elderly and the disabled (Northampton carnival's organisers have already been quoted on this issue in the local newspaper) - and the ditches are a danger to people and animals. At least one dog has drowned in one of the water-filled ditches (which are up to two metres deep).

4. Two dogs have reportedly been run over and killed by the contractors' vehicles - the parkland has remained open whilst work has been ongoing, and health and safety measures were only implemented after significant public outcry and a blockade of access to the contractors' vehicles. The longer-term public safety concerns (if the bund is allowed to remain) is that the parklands will no longer be visible from the road, so villains and vandals will be able to go about their business unobserved!

5. Long-established underground water channels and the ecosystem of the parkland have been disrupted and devastated. In a dry winter, the bund is preventing surface precipitation from running off the golf course into the Rookery woodland. On one side the trees are desperate for water, and at least four experts have said they will die. On the other side, a new, artificial lake has been created by the bund!

6. Archaeological artefacts have in all probability been lost or destroyed because of the delay in implementation of a specific planning condition. Only after public protest - including that from the Chairman of the British Archaeological Trust - has this particular issue finally been treated seriously

At the public meeting on Monday evening, several Councillors revealed they had recently visited Delapre Park and had been horrified by the scale of destruction and devastation. No less a person than Councillor Tim Hadland, Leader of the Council, stated "If we had known it was going to be like this, we would never have voted for it" (verbatim, taken from contemporaneous notes).

The public demands an immediate halt to all work on the bund and wants it to be removed and the parkland restored to its former glory. Documented breaches of planning conditions empower the Council to take action, but will they act or prevaricate? Every minute they delay sees another 32 cubic metres of infill material arriving at Delapre Park. Every minute they delay sees the devastation and destruction compounded.

Fourth, under the Freedom of Information Act we ask that the Council publish the commercial arrangements underpinning the leasing arrangements before any lease is signed the so that voters can form a view as to whether they are getting value for money. Estimated values from the dumping of ‘inert matter’ vary between £100 and £200 a load, meaning that the income to the developer will be between £3 and £6 million in phase 1 alone. At the same time would you also explain why the Council may grant Jack Barker Golf a 99 year lease, and whether there are penalty clauses that would operate if the Council wished to end the lease. Could you also clarify whether the Council is proposing to deal with the Jack Barker Golf Company itself or one of its associated companies (Jack Barker Golf tend to set up separate companies to run each course)? Finally are there any restrictions on the proposed lease being ‘sold on’ to other companies in the future?

Fifth, if the lease is signed, what monitoring arrangements will be put in place to ensure that the amount of ‘inert matter’ is not exceeded and that there are no risks to health through harmful particulates in the dust or in any other ways?

We are asking these questions because if work done at the Golf Course does go ahead and then fails to meet the Council’s requirements, the cost of remedial action could be significant. For example, at Delapre Park, Councillors agreed to remove a single earth bund after agreeing that the project had been an error; the estimated cost of doing so was £150,000


A reply was received from Dawn French:

I am responding to your email to the Council's Chief Executive, dated 10th October, to which he has asked me to reply.

The Planning Service sent out 76 individual consultation letters, all but 4 were to local residents. In addition 3 site notices were posted. All Councils also rely on ward members and the local media raising the profile of applications with local public interest; all elected members and media organisations receive the "weekly list" which details all planning applications lodged each week. The South West Essex Primary Care Trust are also sent the "weekly list" for them to raise concerns or attend meetings, but they were not consulted specifically on this application.

Officers of the Corporate Property Service and Legal Service are entirely satisfied that there are no restrictions to this course of action arising from covenants, etc.

During the tender process to select a partner with whom improvements and investment in the golf course could be achieved, the financial and
delivery history of those seeking the tender was evaluated, amongst other matters. The Council is satisfied BGC Ltd. are fit to manage the golf course.

The release of commercially sensitive information is exempt by the Freedom of Information Act. The award of lease to BGC Ltd. was the subject of a tender process, properly conducted under the Council's Financial Regulations and Standing Orders.

In respect of the lease, it has been awarded to BGC Ltd. There are
penalties should either party, without agreement, end the lease; there are also arrangements in the event BGC Ltd. wish to transfer the lease.

Robust monitoring activities will be undertaken by a variety of officers relating to different aspects of the project, including the quality and quantity of inert materials but extending to all the controls in both the lease and the planning conditions, attached to the planning permission. I will ensure you are provided with the contact details of the relevant officers, prior to the commencement of work, with whom you will be able to discuss specific issues and concerns, relevant to the construction phase.

I hope this information is of assistance, but should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Dawn French
Head of Development, Property and Health
01268 294858
dawn.french@basildon.gov.uk


A further email was sent on 18th October 2007

Bala Mahendran,
Chief Executive, Basildon Council,
St Martin’s Square, Basildon, Essex.
18 October 2007.

Dear Mr Mahendran,

Proposed Landfill at Basildon Golf Course: plan 07/00375/Full, Golf Driving Ranges

We have been looking carefully at this plan for the first phase of this work. Could you please answer the following questions about it?

1. We note that on the north side of the proposed driving range the contour figures rise from 39.0 to 45.0. This suggests a sharp rise of 6 metres. Can you confirm?
2. We note that to the south and east sides of the driving range the figures do not fall away but seem to continue at a similar level until they meet the rising contours of the existing land. Presumably all of this area will be filled with landfill until it reaches the levels shown on the plan i.e. 48, 47 and 45 metres. Again, can you confirm these points?
3. Trees which are to remain appear to be shown in circles on the diagram. Again can you confirm?
4. To meet the plans, it would seem that 5 lines of trees totalling over 500 free-standing trees ( plus several short lines of smaller trees which form screens) will need to be cut down. Are we correct; alternatively what is your estimate of the numbers that will be cut down and that will remain standing?

Given the significant change of contours in this area, have studies been carried out to make sure that water will drain away without flooding properties in the vicinity, particularly those with gardens already prone to flooding to the North side of the driving range? Further, the planning application states that the existing SW drainage system will be retained: can you assure us that the system will still work although buried under 6 metres of inert material topped with the existing soil?

We note that the existing soil will be removed in order to be used to top the bund. It will be a significant volume. Where will it be stored?

Please give us the name and address of the Council’s Insurers so that local residents can confirm with them and their own insurers that they are aware of the history of flooding in this area and that they are prepared to meet any claims arising from this development. If residents are required to pay additional insurance premiums or excesses will the Council reimburse them?

Finally, we understand that if the work is carried out to the agreed specification and that changes are subsequently required because of ‘ponding’, flooding or any other reason, the Council will need to meet the cost of any remedial work. Is that correct? What sum of money has been set aside as a contingency for this possible eventuality?

Yours sincerely,


To this further email, Dawn French replied thus:

Further to your email to the Council's Chief Executive dated 18 October, I trust the following information is of assistance.

In response to your questions as listed:

1. The rise from 39.0 to 45.0m is confirmed
2. I can confirm the points raised are correct.
3. Trees shown in circles and other belts of trees are to be retained.
4. The exact number of trees to be removed is not known.

In respect of drainage, proposals for improvement to the drainage of the site were submitted and are contained in the "Jack Barker Organisation Report" particularly Section 3.

There is no stated specific location for removed soil to be stored.

I can confirm that if residents sustain any financial loss (such as
additional premiums or excesses) or damage to their property, for which
they feel the Council have been negligent, they are able to put in a claim for such losses against the Council's Public Liability policy. These claims will only be paid if the Council are found to be legally liable for the damage or financial loss.

It is not appropriate to provide details of the Council's liability
insurers as any claim should be directed to the Council's Insurance
Section initially, who process the claim and pass to the insurers
accordingly. Also, the Insurers will not confirm whether they are
prepared to meet such claims in advance as decisions on liability can only be made after an event has occurred and a full investigation has taken place.

I am unable to comment on the last paragraph, as any remedial work that
the residents wish to carry out would form part of any claim, as mentioned above.

If you have any further queries on this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Dawn French
Head of Development, Property and Health
01268 294858
dawn.french@basildon.gov.uk


Mr. Buckley,
Since 1958 I have voted Conservative in local and national elections, but this will not be the case in future.
Unless the planning permission granted to Jack Barker on 11/9/07 is rescinded, I will campaign on behalf of your opposition loud and clear.
You must be aware that if I rally all the opposition so far expressed, your term in office is very limited.


Dear Mr Xxxxxx

Thank you for your email advising of your views. Everyone is free in a democracy to change their views at the ballot box and many people do so more than once.

In terms of the planning consent granted to Jack Barker, even if the Council were so minded under planning law it is impractical to rescind a decision to approve. A refusal can be resubmitted and may or may not receive the same outcome.

In any event were a Councillor to allow a decision to be influenced by political gain this would be in breach of the code of conduct.

For the record you should be aware that had the course not transferred it would have closed. I believe it is better to keep it open and in use by as many people as possible.

My colleague Cllr Hedley, the Cabinet Member for leisure, undertook considerable research before recommending the transfer to the Council. This included anonymous visits to other courses run by JB including Delapre.

There has been much scaremongering locally, but this does not accord with information from other Councils dealing with the same firm.

I hope as the course is remodelled you will reconsider.

Yours sincerely

Malcolm Buckley

(nb as stated elsewhere on this website, we know of at least 3 organisations interested in running the golf course without the introduction of inert landfill)