Questions asked over sale of seaside council-owned golf course

A councillor has called for documents relating to the sale of valuable seafront land in Bridlington to be examined by a committee, amid claims it was significantly undervalued.

Friday, 16th March 2018, 6:26 pm
Updated Friday, 16th March 2018, 6:30 pm

It follows allegations that the public purse could potentially lose out to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds over the sale of council-owned Bridlington Golf Club.

According to club minutes of an extraordinary general meeting in 2014, the question of buying the freehold of the land from East Riding Council, arose during talks between the club and council leader Stephen Parnaby and director of planning Alan Menzies, to discuss the difficulties golf clubs were having nationally.

It added: “During the talks the Council asked if we had ever thought of buying the Golf Club. The Chairman expressed his surprise at this statement.”

Bridlington Golf course, looking from seafront on Belvedere Road. Picture by Paul Atkinson:

The minutes state that the idea of selling off part of the land was discussed and the council suggested a “preferred builder” was contacted.

The golf club approached three - two said it was “not big enough” and one was “very interested.”

They also state that the council was asking £750,000 for the freehold, a figure “much less than the Chairman expected.”

There was discussion about how the financially-strapped golf club could afford it, with three possible options, one being to sell an area of land to a developer.

Bridlington Golf course, looking from seafront on Belvedere Road. Picture by Paul Atkinson:

The developer offered £1.65m for the “very attractive” 3.5 acre 16th hole, at a price “which was agreed and verified by both the district valuer and council.”

Last year planning permission was given for the building of up to 22 homes with panoramic views, over sea and countryside, and a hotel next to the clubhouse, providing the club with a new source of income.

However Yorkshire-based chartered surveyor Bruce Collinson told BBC Look North the council was not getting best value, and he suggested it should be closer to £2.25m.

Cottingham councillor Ros Jump, who sits on the audit committee, has requested a special meeting, with full access to documents, saying it appeared the land had been “grossly undervalued.” She is also concerned why the land did not go out to tender.

Ward councillor David Robson has not been allowed to see the district valuer’s reports.

He said: “A lot of my ward electors are asking me if the sale agreement is open and above board and I can’t answer in the affirmative as I am being prevented from knowing the full details of the agreement.”

East Riding Council said they had been approached by the club over the land and denied any breaches of planning policy and procedure.

It was not able to sell the land as it was let under a long lease, and it was not put up for tender as the club is a sitting tenant.

A statement added: “The selection of the development partner was a matter for the golf club itself to decide.”

It said its valuation was independently certified by the District Valuer, who declared it “fair, reasonable and best value”. Its external auditor was also satisfied the council was getting best value. The sale has not been completed, but there would be restrictions so the remaining land could only be used as a golf course in future.

A spokesman for the club said “all processes were audited by the district valuer and everything turned out to be exactly where it should be.” He said every golf club was looking for ways to bring in new sources of income and the new hotel would be a “jewel” on the East Coast.