New development regarding Approach Golf Course

Campaigner Ben Reed tells me there’s some news to announce which could affect the future of the city’s Approach Golf Course.

In an email he says: “A local sports charity has put forward a proposal to restore and maintain the greens on the 18 hole course which, combined with the Council’s continued fairway cutting, would allow the course to reopen.

There are some up front costs, so I’ve set up a gofundme page to hopefully meet these and pay for an initial few months of maintenance, by which time I hope club hire – and donations from players – could make the course self-funding again.”

Ben set up the page 17 hours ago and has so far raised £274 of his hoped for £15,000 goal.

The current position regarding this area of the High Common is that B&NES decided against accepting the one bid by an operator offering ‘golf derived activity’ (Frisbee Golf) and that it be retained as a public open space – following a huge number of people opposing the commercialisation of the land.

They’ve declared a period of ‘pause and rest’ for a couple of years before reviewing the situation.

Please see comments already coming in below!

10 Comments

  1. I’d be more hopeful if the Council was to stick to its original decision (as proposed by Paul Crossley in your interview with him) to end golf and restore the High Common to a more natural state. It would be ideal for re-wilding rather than the sterile environment of a golf course for which there seems very little demand.

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  2. This is not the Approach Golf Course. It’s the High Common and the covenants placed upon it preclude commercial activity. It has become a fantastic busy space used by many residents to exercise, walk, and relax. Previously it was very much a place where you took your life into your own hands.

    It was clearly stated by Cllr Paul Crossley, as part of the OJEU Procurement process, that no decision on what would be done with the *HIGH COMMON* would be made in the coming two years. It should also be noted, that having talked with the Bath Bike Park people at Entry Hill, that the site is a grass mono-culture with high levels of grass fertiliser/weed killer in the ground that will take some time to wash out.

    More alarming was to hear Cllr Kevin Guy renege on this commitment (going against covenants) and commit to re-installing the chemically toxic green desert known as a golf course during his inaugural speech at the council.

    Looking at the gofundme page, the page was, at the time of writing, 17 hours old with the first funder being a Mr. Mark Elliot, also 17 hours ago. https://www.gofundme.com/f/reopen-bath-approach-golf-course Would that be Lansdown Cllr Mark Elliott? This. Does. Not. Look. Good.

    Whatever happens to the High Common in the long term, we should respect the 160(I think) year old covenants and it should be *for* the people of Bath.

    The council should publicly consult on what the High Common should become. Given the declared climate and ecological emergency I’d recommend it becoming a nature sculpture park and opening connections to Victoria Park, as was the original intention. You could even go as far as putting a bus gate on Weston Road and closing it to through traffic.

    What we don’t need, is, what appears to be, a local councillor hiding behind individuals trying to reclaim the amazing High Common for an environmentally toxic commercial activity that goes against the covenants of the site.

    The council should ask the people of Bath what should be done with the High Common.

    This gofundme approach(sic) is very wrong.

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  3. Hi Adam!
    Yes, that’s my donation. I saw Ben’s tweet almost as soon as he tweeted it, and was happy to donate. I’m not hiding behind anything. I’ve been completely consistent. I campaigned to keep the golf course, I asked cabinet to keep golf on the site at the public cabinet meeting in Feb, I publicly stated that I thought that a mixed use of the site, with a happy coexistence of many different types of users, including some golf provision, was my preferred outcome. I’m happy to see some rewinding of areas of the site as well, and I don’t want to see over-commercialisation. Golf has been a significant activity on the site for most of the time the covenants you mention have been in place, so to suddenly decide that the covenants preclude golf would be an odd thing for the council to do. There has been golf there for many many decades.

    The golf was closed because of Covid – it was never a strategic decision of the council, it was simply because Covid, and the fallout from it, meant GLL couldn’t operate it any more. There was no talk of the council stopping golf on the site before Covid hit. I agree that it’s great to see so many people using the High Common and I see no reason that has to change with the low key restoration of golf on the site as well. (In fact, many casual golfers have continued to use the site even though the golf has been officially closed.) That seems to me to be a happy, balanced, measured compromise which will maintain the future of the High Common as a well maintained public space for the people of Bath to enjoy well in to the future.

    This has been my consistent, publicly stated position ever since the golf course closed.
    (Mark Elliott – Councillor for Lansdown)

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    1. I’m sorry but the OJEU process could not find an operator and it was made clear that the council failed previously to find an operator so you can’t really use COVID as an excuse here. Cllr Paul Crossley made it absolutely clear that any decision on the *High Common* would be paused for two years and this goes against that commitment. It was very clear from the various presentations that the High Common was being enjoyed as a public open space and that this had not been possible while any form of golf was being played on site.

      I would also point out, again, that commercial activity is not allowed on the High Common as per its covenants.

      Your decision to fund the golf course might also go against the ‘Nolan principles’ of public office.

      I think the way you have worded your response here “low key restoration of golf” fails to take into account that the current grass type on site requires heavy use of fertiliser and pesticides and that you cannot realistically run an environmentally sensitive golf course where you mow the grass to under 1 inch. At a minimum all grass would need digging up and replacing.

      My point is simply that councillors (and the council) should not be making arbitrary decisions on what happens to the *High Common*, particularly if this is their pet project that they’ve financially backed. This should be decided by a two phase public consultation where ideas for the site can be collated, shortlisted, and then taken forward to a final consultation.

      Personally I like the idea of a nature sculpture park (re-wilded gradually) which fits in nicely with the council’s declared climate and ecological emergency BUT I’m sure an ecological sound golf course where acres of grass is mown regularly also makes environmental sense if you squint hard enough.

      Whatever happens to the High Common it should be down to the residents of Bath. The High Common was given to the people of Bath after all.

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  4. As many people will know, I am very much in favour of this area being returned to a natural habitat, as it was before the golf course was built (as an unemployment scheme) in 1932. Prior to then, there were still cows on the land, and hay grown there. Golf courses are, by and large, not environmentally friendly, with many golf courses using unacceptable weedkillers and noisy blowers to shift leaves. Even cutting grass is destructive. You only have to look at the results of No Mow May, to see how quickly wildflowers will start to spread into verges. I was delighted to see pyramid orchids in the bank near my house this spring. By sowing the natural and attractive yellow rattle, which parasitises grass, the grass does not get out of hand.
    I recently took a party across High Common, and said that I had been campaigning for the area to be rewilded, as I personally thought it already looked much better. I was expecting some disagreement, but the entire group was enthusiastic.
    In the late 1820s, the Bath Freeman tried to build on the High Common, in a design clearly inspired by the newly erected Pittville in Cheltenham. They were refused, and it has remained open land ever since.
    We are in an environmental crisis, and the council has a duty to take action which benefits the environment. A golf course does not, especially as it attracts more cars to the area. Indeed, golf could be described as one of the most selfish sports. During the last lockdown, Bath Golf CLub at Sham Castle was enjoyed by far more people, including mountain bikers, than are up there when it is a golf course, and there were actually flocks of skylarks – a seriously declining species. We were all very sad when it reopened. So High Common could easily attract wildlife of all kinds. It is absolutely wrong of the council to take an arbitrary decision on this valuable asset without consulting people.

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  5. I very much support it being retained as the High Common, open to all for exercise and fresh air, together with a degree of re-wilding. A traffic-defying link to Royal Victoria Park is also a very welcome objective.

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  6. Adam – Covid is the reason the course closed. Unsurprisingly, in the middle of pandemic we struggled to find another supplier willing to take it on. That doesn’t mean the council had abandoned golf on the site. This has never been the case. No public consultation is required to maintain the use which the site has had for nearly the past 100 years.

    What we are seeking here is a sensible, measured, balanced compromise. Some rewinding. Maintaining some golf provision. Maintaining free and open public access. No over commercialisation. All with a regard to the fact that in the current financial environment the council doesn’t have massive pots of cash to throw round, particularly on revenue side of the balance sheet.

    Kirsten – I respect your position, but the logical conclusion of it is that all golf should cease completely everywhere. I don’t agree and I think that demonises a leisure activity enjoyed by very many people. As I’ve said, I support some rewinding of the site, but I want a reasonable, balanced compromise, which allows some golf to continue as well.

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  7. In a climate emergency such as we are in, I believe there is an argument for closing most golf courses. They are, by and large, utterly sterile landscapes. If they undertake to introduce wildlife-friendly areas, that is another thing, and there is at least one golf organisation trying to get that message through. But most don’t. Furthermore, as I thought I’d made clear, many more people enjoy such areas when it’s NOT being used as a golf course than when it is. I would ask Mark if he intends to ignore all those who want it returned to what it was less than 90 years ago, simply because they are not an organised group. As Adam said – High Common belongs to all the people of Bath, not just a self-interested group. I stress – we are in a climate emergency and everyone is going to have to change their lifestyle. Even golfers. I thought that Mark’s party were getting behind this.

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  8. Kirsten – as I’ve said, I’m very happy to see some rewinding of areas of the site, and I don’t want to see anyone who currently uses the site excluded by the retention of the golf facility. No one has any plans to exclude anyone, and I wouldn’t support any plan which did. I agree the High Common belongs to all the people of Bath. At the moment, those who used to use it for pitch and putt are excluded. There has been a happy coexistence of golf and other recreational uses of the site over the past 90 years – I want that to continue. To characterise the people who want to maintain the pitch and putt as “self interested” is really unfair. Why are they any more “self interested” than people wanting to stop golf on the site? They are just looking retain a facility which was only closed because of Covid, and they aren’t seeking to exclude anyone at all.

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  9. “That doesn’t mean the council had abandoned golf on the site. This has never been the case.”

    Simply not true, Mark. I suggest you listen to Paul Crossley’s interview with Richard (this site, Feb 13). Speaking as the responsible cabinet member he states quite categorically that there will be “a pause” for a year or two and that during that time it will be treated as park land with no golf.

    https://bathnewseum.com/2021/02/13/approach-and-listen-on

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