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Forum topic: Former Whitewebbs Golf Course

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Former Whitewebbs Golf Course

Karl Brown

02 Nov 2023 09:27 #6997

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Back on golf courses, the Spurs / Whitewebbs public consultation is now open.  Attending the first session last evening, three things struck me:
1.       Of the 53 hectares being considered, leaving out the mixed northwest area of Toby restaurant, road and a couple of car parks, then of the remaining prime area, the planned ladies football area is roughly half, and captures the best (northern) bit. (See slide 3 of the consultation boards – link below)
2.       Board 5, transport, shows the existing Toby restaurant access road will be Spurs-private for coaches and other visitors. Toby will be accessed by opening a new route from Whitewebbs Road. This looks to be putting an unpleasant boundary on one side of the (to be restored) lake while simultaneously instilling a border between the two areas of woodland. The car parks in the adjacent Spurs mens area car park / existing Toby are apparently non-viable for mums dropping kids off in the dark.  I wasn’t convinced.
3.       The 25-year lease comes at a cost of (only) £2m. Over 25 years that works out at £80,000pa. Enfield are reported as one of the UK’s 10 most indebted councils (borrowing £800m+) so every public asset is going to be needed to be optimised, particularly is a S104 “bankruptcy” does occur. The costs of park maintenance will be avoided, but for a wealthy football club with ambition and a real desire for a ladies training space in this sort of location on one side of the table, this doesn’t jump out as the greatest piece of Enfield negotiation. If these are fixed annual payments, then assuming a benign 2% pa inflation rate, todays real worth in 25 years’ time would be only £48k. (4% and its £29k, barely a day rate for a top footballer.)
Whitewebbs may not be familiar to many with its woodland and currently rewilding golf course. It’s a lovely walk from Gordon Hill station, via Hillyfields and well worth a look, before its lost. Other consultation dates are in the main Spurs link below.
www.tottenhamhotspur.com/whitewebbs/
www.tottenhamhotspur.com/media/102fbn1k/thfcwhitewebbsboardsweb231027.pdf
Derby council took an alternate approach to an ex-golf course. They stuck with rewilding, citing climate change, happy residents, and the like.

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Former Whitewebbs Golf Course

Darren Edgar

09 Nov 2023 09:17 #7001

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What leads you to the conclusion that the ladies training ground is going on the "best" bit other than the obvious rationale that the new ground needs to be adjacent to the existing?

Also, you talk about "leaving out" certain areas when considering the proposal, but that just plays into FoWW hands as it allows this nonsense argument that Spurs are taking over the whole of WW when they are not. They are leasing half and developing less than half of that again so we lose about 10-15% that was previously a fee paying golf course and get everything else back.

Finally, in your analysis of the commercial terms of the deal, can you provide a breakdown of why this constitutes so cheap that a better/higher bid was not achieved through the open market competitive tender process?

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Former Whitewebbs Golf Course

Karl Brown

10 Nov 2023 08:50 #7004

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A quick reply to Darren Edgar’s points:
Best bit: subjective - top of the hill with a lovely wide vista or bottom of the hill in the valley. Take your choice.
New needs to be near the existing: not according to the acting consultants, although they will be joined by a private golf-buggy cart only private route. They will operate as two independent sites, hence their argument for a second car park.
Bit in question: again the consultants agreed with a consultee that the c80% figure on their boards (see link I provided previously) was misleading – “morally wrong” was the phrase used. The existing woods are the existing woods, will remain so, and appear to have about as much sense of being drawn into the developed / not developed calculation as say, Forty Hall.
Worth checking if it is only about 10-15% of the previous golf course that is being lost to development. The boards provide a good visual. 50% doesn’t seem out of kilter. I also learned at the visit that pre golf course this was all open public space.
Get everything else back? Spurs have nothing to give back, they are leasing a section of public land.
I have no detail of any other tenders, nor terms, financial or other requirements, which bidders were asked to meet, or may have suggested. I understand this detail will not be released despite requests. But on simple financial terms, it looks more than a bargain for Spurs and at £80k pa doesn’t put Enfield in a good negotiating light. Spurs on the other hand, as evidenced by eg their negotiations over the new White Hart Lane plus the Olympic stadium, are clearly hot in negotiation space . The 10 or so consultants on duty that evening show the level of Spurs investment.
On other, I’m unclear why Spurs would want to take 25-year ownership of a public area subject to a 30-year biodiversity plan and particularly why Enfield simply didn’t ask for cash as part of the deal to refurb this non-developed remainder exactly as Spurs intend but retain full unencumbered ownership themselves. Spurs stick to football, Enfield to land management. Same ends, simply who holds the money - and of course certain rights over the land.

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Former Whitewebbs Golf Course

Darren Edgar

16 Nov 2023 11:48 #7010

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Who are the "acting consultants" that don't think corresponding facilities need to be adjoining? Or is your rationale simply that they are being operated as independent sites? Begs the question why don't they just take space in Hertfordshire or Essex by that logic......

The 10-15% isn't of the golf course but the site as a whole. Emphasis being we are getting MORE totally freely accessible space now and categorically not losing the volume that anti-Spurs/FoWW are trying to misrepresent.

Before golf course it was public space - how long are you going back? They have had two attempts at trying to make golf work, both failed, so maybe it was public inbetween but I don't think going back several decades is a fair or reasonable argument.

A full market tender process was run. Whether you or anyone else likes that fact or not. From memory some high level info was released but, whilst it childishly puts the back up of FoWW, reality is nobody has any right to detailed commercially sensitive information like full bidder details. Bidders wouldn't bid if everyone knew it would be splashed all over the public domain.

As usual there's no analysis to support the "too cheap" claim. Again, if it was, someone would simply have out-bid it.

Personally I'd rather things were professionally and commercially managed as I think Council competence and effort levels are modest at best.

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Former Whitewebbs Golf Course

Karl Brown

16 Nov 2023 16:12 #7013

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Answering - Quad are the (Spurs) “acting consultants” who managed and attended the public events – see the footer to the consultation boards in my earlier link. Best you take up several of the matters where you disagree with their views directly with them.

£80k pa for a large stretch of green belt (MOL) land? Relatively cheap will depend on what you compare it with, but given stringent limitations on such land, the range of bidders and their possible proposals would have been (very) restricted, if there were indeed any others. As for £relativity I’d make an assumption that the on-market value of credits from any related biodiversity net gain activity alone would be capable of making significant inroads into Spurs’ rental.

Worth adding that the £2m / £80k pa equivalent is actually £500k equivalent of investment work by Spurs plus an actual cash payment of £1.5m over 25 years (eq £60k pa).

More particularly I’m at a loss why Enfield, on closing the golf course, simply didn’t leave the land as available public space. Nature seems to be well capable of making a reasonable job of managing such things. At less than 0.01% of our present £800+m capital debt levels, with Cabinet this week looking at much higher levels to come, this income is going to barely register. Great for Spurs but I’m yet to envisage any realistic business case for ratepayers (owners). Shame I missed the original consultation.

I'd suggest again, if anyone isn't familiar with Whitewebbs then do take the opportunity to go and have a look. 

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Former Whitewebbs Golf Course

Darren Edgar

16 Nov 2023 18:19 #7014

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1. I don't think I've really disagreed with anything other than the proximity argument which still doesn't stack up as it would make the entire transaction pointless. Your argument also relies on a totally subjective assessment of "best".

2. Again, no real analysis. No comparable transactions. No rationale as to why someone didn't outbid them if they are getting such a steal....

3. I am very happy the Council are now making money from a site rather than subsidising it. "Leaving it" would still carry a maintenance cost. And you'd lose both the rental income and investment but also the business rates would will probably be reasonably substantial.

% of total budget is reductive. Many things could be quashed on this basis.

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Former Whitewebbs Golf Course

Karl Brown

19 Nov 2023 08:27 #7015

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“Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've gotTill it's gone”So wrote the great Joni Mitchell, in Big Yellow Taxi.And it seems that so many are not familiar with Whitewebbs Park, so if you are in that group why not explore while there is still the opportunity before the 2m high Spurs-Wall is installed and 52 high and moderate value trees are felled.Access is easy via a pub at either end, or the Toby restaurant in the middle. There are car parks north and south or be active and train it 10 minutes to Gordon Hill and walk through Hillyfields Park. Alternatively walk the green route from Forty Hall.I’ve attached a map which may assist.Yellow is the simplest route that takes in generally the entirety of the (proposed) leased land.Red goes through the (damp) lower meadows then heads north along the bridleway.Green goes through the woodland which is a bit rough and paths are not so clear.If this is unfamiliar territory, then be prepared to be surprised.    
 

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Former Whitewebbs Golf Course

Karl Brown

19 Nov 2023 08:29 #7016

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Darren Edgar has one view, the Enfield / Spurs case, and that’s fair enough. I’m a little late to this, although with a judge now accepting there is a case to answer, perhaps not too late. This is how I see things:Whitewebbs Park is a section of the contiguous green belt across the north of our borough. The land was made available for public use, with public access, and also subject to public sports use (hence the public golf course).As with pretty much all land there will be associated maintenance costs, and as with all publicly available land there are (ever increasingly acknowledged) health benefits - move about, relax, mental health, and so forth.Enfield decided to monetarise our asset. Is there really a need vs other financial options? The site’s restrictions (green belt / MOL plus terms of gift) would inevitably have limited the range of bidders and options available to them, e.g. housing, while immensely lucrative, would have been a non-starter. The majority of options would similarly fall outside of the possible. Inevitably that would impact on the financial scale of bids.Spurs already have an extensive (male) football training facility, almost adjacent. They have a clear want to expand. As Darren points out, if not here then it’s pointless for Spurs – read immensely valuable to them and so a powerful negotiating tool for Enfield.In a competitive tender, versus no one seems to know who or what else, or even if there was any other, Spurs become the chosen party.Over 40 acres of currently open, wilding land will be lost to public access, instead to sit behind a 2m high wall. There are benefits to Spurs, ladies football and business rates to our council.Spurs will additionally lease a further near 90 acres of open parkland for 25 years. That will be maintained and remain open to the public, as now.For all this they will pay a reported £0.5m up front and £75,000pa after a gap of 5 years for the remainder of the lease term. A total of £2m. Call it a house and a half in Winchmore Hill.The proposed lease is (currently) secret. Its not clear who will carry out what general maintenance and refurbishment costs of the publicly accessible 90 acres. The existing café and lake will it seem be funded by Spurs, which may or may not be the £0.5m.What have I concluded?As a monetarisation of a prime asset it looks extraordinarily poor value for us as owners / ratepayers.As a scar on an otherwise excellent, publicly open, green site which forms part of a wider green linkage, it looks out of place.It strikes me as one for the Do Nothing Option, required in all business cases. Yes, ratepayers will have some associated maintenance costs, but that is not unusual for any council. Derby and Liverpool councils are taking innovative, ecological approaches to defunct golf courses, possibly with health and climate in mind; Enfield are expected to propose losing large swathes of nearby green belt to housing in the forthcoming Local Plan (due 6 December).  And I’m left wondering why Spurs are seeking to hoover up north Enfield land, including leasing parkland at the southern part of Whitewebbs outside of their current footballing plans. Just what happens at the end of the 25-year lease. Will it all revert to as is now? As I say, that’s secret.

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