Plan to save Marland Golf Course rejected by Rochdale Borough Council

Date published: 07 February 2019

A plan to save Marland Golf Course has been rejected by Rochdale Borough Council due to it not being viable, Rochdale Online can reveal.

Andrew Terry and his business partner Joe Jackson, who both grew up playing golf at Marland, had presented a proposal to take over the operation at Marland Golf Course, which had the backing from Link4Life, and council officials.

However, the plan put forward was rejected by the council on Monday (4 February) due to it “not being viable” as the council could not fund the management fees – despite no expectation of funding within the plan.

Andrew said: “All the feedback suggested everyone felt confident about the proposal and the sustainability: we have always worked on the premise that we will receive no subsidy, which would cost Rochdale Borough Council nothing.

“We are obviously very disappointed with the decision as we are very passionate and committed to delivering not only a hub for the local community, but also keeping open a leisure facility that is close to our hearts.

“The feedback we have received regarding our proposal has been extremely positive from day one with Link4Life CEO Andy King offering his full support, not to mention the council officers we presented to.”

Andrew spent 15 years working at Marland, learning how to operate a successful golf course and coaching business, before taking up the position as Head PGA Professional at Whitefield Golf Club, whilst Joe specialises in improving businesses with financial difficulties.

Andrew added: “Moving to Whitefield Golf Club was a fantastic step up in my career but it was a very difficult decision to leave Marland. I always kept an eye on things at Marland and stayed in touch with friends who play there.

“Over the summer of 2018, I heard rumours that the course was facing financial difficulty and an uncertain future. That’s when I contacted Andy King to offer to help.

“I decided to leave Whitefield Golf Club and transfer my coaching business to Marland with the aim of building up the reputation and hopefully taking over the operation when Link4Life exit.”

He continued: “Joe and I thoroughly researched a number of case studies of PGA Professionals who had taken over golf courses from councils and made a success of them, before deciding to submit the proposal to Rochdale Council. We feel and the business plan submitted shows there is great potential for Marland to become a sustainable leisure facility for the community as a whole.

“For a long time, golf has had a poor reputation of being elitist and for wealthy people however, we want to remove all the barriers and make golf accessible to everyone in the community. The plan articulated the desire to open the course wider than just the current membership, looking to attract children and women to the course, as well as opening the course to local organisations and health professionals to promote a healthier lifestyle.

“Our plan is to invest in the facility by refurbishing the clubhouse area to make a cafe and making improvements to the paths to make it a community attraction rather than a hidden beauty spot in the area.

“I believe the local community will find it difficult to understand why Rochdale Council would make the decision to let a leisure facility close rather than allow an experienced management team to deliver a facility for the benefit of the local community free of charge to Rochdale Council. I also understand that the closing of this facility would also leave Rochdale Council under the threshold of acceptable levels of leisure facilities available to the community.

“I would like Rochdale Council to reconsider and allow Joe and myself the opportunity to present our business plan directly to the decision makers so we can clearly explain our proposal and address any concerns.”

Andrew and Joe’s plan has received the backing from Springfield Golf Club, and the local ward councillors.

Ward councillor Pat Sullivan said: “During the 1990s, the golf club used to be part of my portfolio. It did very well and when I later came back to the council, I became involved again.

“The course was donated for the working class, for people who couldn’t afford a private club, by Frederick Lye in the 1920s. Nine holes of the course were given to the people of Rochdale to play golf.

“The course has been badly managed: it has got to be kept open for the people of Rochdale. A business plan was put forward that was accepted by Link4Life. This has been a very rash decision and hasn’t been looked into.

“I’m very cross with the decision and I would like this looked at properly.

“I’m annoyed this has been kept as quiet as it has. If this is saving money, why is it not in the forthcoming budget?”

Councillor Ashley Dearnley, leader of the Conservatives, added: “How sad that proper and meaningful discussions haven’t taken place with service users.

“I would urge the council to continue to support the golf facility and that all options are considered, including the proposals for others to bid to run the service.

“If the council takes it on and closes it, it could become an overgrown unsightly area or there will be a significant cost in maintenance of the land.

“This is a great facility for local people and most importantly brings with it all the health and well-being benefits which the council wants to encourage: hopefully they will think again.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “Although we understand the disappointment members of the golf club must feel at this news, we would reiterate what we said in our previous statement – the financial situation this council faces is extremely challenging and there is no sign it is going to change. The proposal put forward was rejected because it is not viable in the long-term.

“For some time, every user of Marland has been subsidised through public funds to the sum of around £150 per year to play golf at the site. There are alternative courses in the borough and if required we will support club members to identify alternative sites where they can play without public subsidy.”

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