Sep 12th, 2016
Property Week – Dig up golf courses to solve housing crisis
Call for change in legislation
Words: John Dean
A leading equities analyst has written an article for Property Week calling for authorities to dig up golf courses to help solve the UK's housing crisis.
Alastair Stewart has called on the government to introduce legislation to make it easier for developers to build on golf courses and says that demand for golf courses by developers is still high.
He says in the property industry magazine that 'golf courses continue to occupy an inordinately large chunk of the UK' despite a slump in participation in the last 15 years, with 'some 2,000 full-sized courses in England, along with hundreds of smaller courses, driving ranges and pitch and putts'.
Research has estimated that up to two per cent of England is made up of golf courses, with some areas such as Merseyside, the West Midlands and Surrey having nearly three per cent of their land devoted to golf courses.
It's even thought that there is more land in Surrey that is golf courses than housing, where demand for properties is particularly high.
"There appears to be a preponderance of courses in or close to green-belt areas, where housing demand is greater, and this totals 1.6 million hectares," said Stewart.
"Whenever there is a debate on housing there's inevitably a focus on London. There are some 70-odd courses in Greater London, quite a few of them close to or cheek by jowl with rival clubs. Cut half of them, build at a reasonable density of, say, 50 units per hectare, and that's 78,750 new homes. The remaining clubs might start turning a profit. And green fees might go down.
"I'm not a golf-basher but the development world is turning against golf, whereas once no upmarket housing development was complete without a neighbouring course.
"In April, regeneration experts Chris Musgrave and Trevor Cartner teamed up with Stagecoach co-founder Ann Gloag to buy an abandoned golf course in Yorkshire from liquidators and turn it into a £200m town. Flaxby Golf Course spans 111 hectares between Harrogate and York, on which the trio plans to build around 1,000 homes as well as a new school, shops and community facilities.
"And in February, Mark Quinn, managing director of Quinn Estates, announced plans to turn the failed Herne Bay Golf Club into 572 homes, pitches for the local football, tennis, hockey and cricket clubs.
"Other developers are looking to follow suit, I'm told, not just with full courses, but also driving ranges and the like. They are no doubt taking their cue from the world's epicentre of golf. In the US, the number of golf courses has declined every year for the past decade, a net shrinkage of 680, according to Forbes, presumably making way for housing developments.
"It's a development proposition made in heaven. Buying loss-making clubs could mean bargain prices.
"Bulldozing golf courses has none of the decontamination costs associated with brownfield sites, the adverse economies of which successive government ministers have failed to grasp in their zeal to redevelop former industrial land.
"Attractive landscaping would already largely be in place, with built-in water features and plenty of mature trees (any surplus to requirements could provide timber for some of the homes). Sustainability could be enhanced by recycling the contents of bunkers, which could be mixed into concrete.
"As for the clubhouses, these could be converted to more profitable fitness clubs.
"All that's needed is for the government to introduce a fast-track planning route specifically for golf facilities."
We've already lost nine holes of one of our local clubs, and are about to see a great par three course go under concrete. And this has all happened without legislation being relaxed. If it is made easier the tempatation for owners to cash in is likely to be overwhelming, and we could see a lot of courses closing. It will literally be a field day! We have been warned.