Agenda item

Future of Entry Hill and Approach Golf Courses

Use of Entry Hill golf course has declined over the past several years and the council wants to attract a larger number of people to enjoy open-air activity at this important site that forms part of Bath’s World Heritage Site designation.  The site operates at a financial loss to the Council. 

A consultation has been completed which welcomed opinions on a range of options including but not limited to a family cycle centre, a community growing space, outdoor education or continuing to provide a golf course. A number of parties have expressed an interest or submitted proposals for managing and operating the site during and following this consultation.  A way forward now needs to be agreed for the site.

The Approach golf course also operates at a financial loss to the Council and has had links to the running of Entry Hill since at least the beginning of the Aquaterra contract in 2005.  There are potential economies of scale and benefits to potential contractors to operating both sites so any decision on the future of Entry Hill needs to consider how the Approach will be managed as well.


The Chair invited Councillor Paul Crossley to introduce the report.


Before reading out the statement, Councillor Paul Crossley thanked to all speakers who addressed the Cabinet today and responded to speakers’ statements by highlighting the following points

  • The anti-social behaviour was not unique just for golf courses; it was an issue that the Council would be taking up across all parks in Bath and North East Somerset.
  • There were nearly 2,000 responses from postcodes in BANES, out of which 10% was from young people, which was quite unique and welcome.
  • The decision would not be made based on bias. 
  • The fact that people were cycling around, and up and down the course, would not mean that the Council would want to create cycle route.  The Council would go through the consultation responses and then make final decision.
  • Signage would have to improve.


Councillor Paul Crossley read out the following statement:


First of all I would like to thank the leisure section of the Council who have put so much time and effort into this item, to Lemon Gazelle who ran our consultation, GLL and to the many many residents who engaged in the process at the consultation , on line and also via the many hundreds of emails I have had on these proposals. I recognize and understand the passion with which people hold their favourite pastime in.

The two sites have been closed since the start of the consultation so that our debt does not increase and the sites will remain closed until we have appointed new operators for the sites.

We originally anticipated making a decision on the future of the Entry Hill site based on the results of the consultation that took place a few months ago.


However the consultation process ignited a lot of interest in the site and this has led to a number of parties submitting bids or proposals that respond well to the criteria that were set out in the consultation.  These were 1. Addressing climate change  2. Encouraging more people to be more active, more often and 3. Ensuring the site does not require a financial subsidy from the Council in the future.


And then came Covid.


In addition to a climate emergency and a nature emergency we also now have a financial emergency.


This has resulted in us supporting GLL and working with them in partnership on getting our sporting facilities back in use. And that is why The Approach 12 hole and Approach 18 hole have been added to the decision.


In recent weeks at least 3 leisure trusts have gone out of business, locked up the facilities and handed the keys back to the local Council.


We do not want that to happen here.


Sport and leisure is a very important part of what makes living in Bath and NE Somerset such an attractive option for all our residents.


The interest that has been sparked by this consultation and is in marked contrast to the previous time the golf offer was put out under a previous administration when no interest was shown.


At this point I will describe the 3 sites:-

EH 9 hole par 3 Golf on the Wellsway. Over recent years it has seen a decline in use. There are other comparable course in the area. However it has a very loyal group of users especially older lady players. It is also popular with dog walkers.

Approach18 18 hole par 3 Pitch and Putt and a very important part of the open visual landscape for central Bath. It has several public rights of way across it and is well used by a variety of groups in addition to golfers including dog walkers.

Approach 12 par 3 Pitch and Putt and also an important part of the landscape that makes Bath special.


What is certain is that with our financial situation as it is and with the cuts we are making we CANNOT continue to subsidise the current model of operation at Entry Hill and Approach.

The losses at Entry Hill are well advertised through the consultation and run in excess of £80k pa. The losses at Approach are less well known but the last 3 years have been £40.7K, £29.6K and £31.9K. Whatever else it is not right for the tax payer of B&NES that public money is continued to be used to support the current model of operation at these two sites.


We have had detailed proposals on new ways of working and new ideas for use of the sites ranging from golf to disc-golf to cycling to sculpture parks to allotments to forest school.


These proposals have different levels of detail in them and so are difficult to compare easily.

Indeed some are just outline ideas.


Awarding a contract to one of these proposals or making a decision on the future of any site at this stage would not be a fair and equitable approach and would not meet the Council’s procurement regulations.


In fact the proposals are evolving over time as they start to consider how other ideas can complement their key proposal.


As a result of this the Council has concluded that an open procurement process that is evaluated against the same criteria that were used during the consultation process as well as taking into account the results of the consultation is the most appropriate way forward at this time.


To be fair to all the bidding parties and the various users of the sites we will hold this exercise as speedily as is possible under procurement rules.’


Councillor Paul Crossley moved the recommendations as per report.


The Chair seconded the motion by thanking to all of those that came today to make a statement on the future of Entry Hill and Approach Golf courses, and also to everyone who took part in the consultation.  The Cabinet felt that it was important that the future of these courses was moved on to the next stage, as soon as possible.  The responses received in the consultation would move this issue forward.


Councillor Paul Crossley clarified that the Cabinet Members would be briefed on regular basis on this matter before making the final decision.


Councillor Kevin Guy commented that community views and opinions must be taken fully into account with full and open transparency along the way. 


Councillor Tim Ball said that the Cabinet would need to make quick decision on this matter due to ongoing cost for those sites.  Councillor Ball welcomed that Cabinet Members would be briefed on regular basis before making the final decision.


Councillor David Wood thanked all those who participated in the consultation and said that this was great example on how a consultation should be conducted.  Councillor Wood also agreed that the decision must be transparent, and it would need to take climate, ecological and financial emergency into account.


Councillor Richard Samuel gave some clarification on what would happen next. Once the Cabinet agree with the recommendations, the tendering process would commence. The officers would produce a tender report, which would analyse the results of tenders’ proposals in line with its appropriate weighting to the different types of proposal. After that stage, Councillors Crossley and Samuel would be consulted on the outcome of that tender process. If there were any concerns about the delegation to the Director of Environment in appointing the contract then it would probably come back to the Cabinet, for final decision.  Councillor Samuel added that sufficient safeguards were in place and expressed his support for this matter to go forward. 


Councillor Rob Appleyard also supported the motion by adding that certain amount of importance is given to mass participation and use of the site rather than just focused on too narrow a group of people.



RESOLVED (unanimously) that the Cabinet agreed to:


2.1  Agree the next steps for the future uses of Entry Hill and Approach golf courses

2.2  Note the results of the community consultation exercise in relation to Entry Hill

2.3  Recommend that an open procurement exercise is undertaken that allows all proposals to be properly considered and evaluated against an agreed set of criteria.  Proposals for community and sporting provision only will be considered.  Ensure that bidders are able to tender for one or both of the sites as desired.

2.4  Delegate to the Director of Environment authority to appoint a contractor in accordance with the Council’s prescribed governance and procurement process in consultation with the Cabinet Members for Finance and Communities

Supporting documents: