Council calls for new bidding process in golf course rewilding row

Published on by Jack Oliver (author)

The view from Hollingbury, one of the courses whose future is uncertain (photo: )
The view from Hollingbury, one of the courses whose future is uncertain

The decision to be made over the future of Hollingbury Golf Course has been put on hold as the council decides to refer the resolution to the Policy and Resources Committee.

The Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee voted in favour of a Green Party amendment which would see that should no suitable leaseholder come forward, a new bidding process should begin.

Another Brighton site, Waterhall Golf Course, looks increasingly likely to be handed over to rewilding projects.

The two courses have their leases expire in March and much debate has been had over their futures. Climate activists Extinction Rebellion have led a campaign which would see the two courses become 'rewilded', a process in which they are allowed to grow naturally.

They submitted a petition to the council last night with over 5000 signatures.

Vic Ient, the Policy and Planning Officer of Friends of the South Downs Society, slammed the council's management of the issue as 'not very good'.

'If they didn't know what to do with these properties, then they should have opened a consultation anyway. It seems to me that they sort of stumbled into this situation.'

He described how 'it would be excellent for [Waterhall Golf Course] to be returned to natural Downland.'

'There's ever greater threat onto natural Downland.

'To have a victory that reverses the threat is great.'

A potential solution to the Hollingbury problem could be a resolution which saw a bidder who could both accommodate golfing and rewilding on the site. However Ient claims this is 'not enough'.

'The local people and the pressure groups are not happy with a partial arrangement.

'Hollingbury ought to have a proper local consultation.'

Ient praised Extinction Rebellion for 'raising the importance of climate change'.

'It's a race against time.'

However he did express issues surrounding the concerns of golfers.

'I feel sympathy with the golfers because it's a reduction in services they've got locally and it's a peaceful occupation.

'But if Brighton and Hove Council are determined to proceed with this, it's for them to deal with the golfing community because it's their decision and not the decision of Extinction Rebellion or anyone else.

'Quite frankly Brighton and Hove Council hasn't treated the golfing community with due regard.

'Is a council the right organisation to run a golf course?

'Everybody needs to be treated equally.'

Many golfers have expressed their frustration at the campaign, and two counter-petitions were launched from members of Hollingbury and Waterhall golf courses.

Hollingbury Golf Club Captain Steve Garrioch said he personally felt there was 'enough rewilding within the golf course'.

'There's plenty of green area there anyway.'

The Policy and Resources Committee will debate the futures of the courses on 24th of January.

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