Our team consists of Great Denham and Biddenham PC’s along with the two Ward Councillors for Bromham & Biddenham plus Ward Councillor for Kempston Rural and our resident Planning Expert Natalie Wilson.

Background

In 2008 the current operators of the golf club signed a 20-year lease which would see the club and course through to 2028. At the 10-year break clause – normal in a long-lease – negotiations took place resulting in a new two-year lease. In the last 12 months the golf club management team have attempted to open negotiations with Bidwells on the renewal of the lease, but have received no response other than the mantra “the trustees don’t know what they want to do with the golf course”.

The result of this has been that the 504 members of the Golf Club have been advised of the likelihood of closure when the lease expires on 16 th October 2020.

It is clear with the original lease which took us up to 2028, the Trust saw the golf course continuing for another 10 years from the 2018 break clause. What has happened to change that? Quote from Richard Wingfield in a conversation with the Chair of Biddenham PC, “understood the decision to be that golf was no longer seen as a good use of the land because of a decline in popularity and profitability”!

Popularity? – Ok then if 504 members is not popularity what is?

Profitability? Whose – the Trusts? We have established if they close the golf course, they can’t let out the buildings due to conditions set when planning permission was given. The Trust will still need to pay rates on the property (est. £40k), to insure the buildings, to look after the land and fences, plus other unknown costs – whilst forgoing their annual lease rental (currently £75k).

Why do they want to do this? Could be to let the land become seen as “no defined use” and hope that they could eventually get planning for Residential development of the 70 hectares. Current ratios of houses to hectare are between 30 to 50 so at best 2,100 houses and could be considerably worse! We would hope that the Local Plan 2030 policies in place from Bedford Borough would continue to protect the Urban Open Space and Gap so even more confusing as to why the landowner wants to close the course?

What have we done so far?
 We have established that the landowner is the Old Ford End Trust, set up in 1995 to manage the land and agreements and s106 arrangements with Bedford Borough and the developer Bovis. The current trustees of OFET are Reginald Phillip Heyworth and Charles Robert Hutton – addresses available if required.
 We have written to the Trust via their agent Bidwells and to their home addresses to outline the concerns and planning history and conditions which impact the property and
that would affect future planning applications.

 We have spoken directly to the trust beneficiary, Richard Wingfield, and discussed resident concerns.
 We have engaged our MP, Richard Fuller, and he has written to the trustees via their agent, Bidwells, asking for dialogue on the matter.
 Template letters have been written and are available for residents to use for both the MP and the Trustees (via their agent).
 A large number of residents have written to both their MP and the Trustees to highlight their concerns and request a review of the decision to close the course.
 We have written to the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick on the 16 th July and, as no response, have asked Richard Fuller to intervene and also speak to Simon Clark MP Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government.
 We have started discussions with both a Planning Solicitor and a Planning Barrister
 A “Shout-out” to the local community has brought offers of help with PR, Media and Marketing.
 We have written to the Trustees to ask for a meeting so that we can explore whether a community and business arrangement may be an option we can consider.

Up to date we have not received any responses to any communication and having just spoken to Richard Fuller he has not either. As soon as we have more we will update.

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