A large firm has been rapped for creating mountains of landfill waste on a golf course it was supposed to be transforming into a high-quality leisure facility.
Serco has been issued with a Breach of Condition Notice by West Lancashire Borough Council (WLBC) over the state of Beacon Park Golf Course between Up Holland and Skelmersdale, saying it does not follow the agreement for the site’s maintenance.
The firm has had its wrist slapped as the rubbish has exceeded the maximum height allowed by planning conditions and infill has been piled up in one place rather than distributed across the whole area.
The decision has delighted campaigners and politicians in the area who have been furious about the decline of the course and a perceived lack of financial transparency for several years.
However, they have also made clear that this is merely the beginning of the process to get Beacon Park looking how it should.
Rosie Cooper, MP for West Lancashire, said: “What has been going on with Beacon Park golf course over many years has been a disgrace and it is timely that action is at last being taken to rectify the situation but this doesn’t end the matter.
“I will continue to pursue this matter as there should be proper accountability by those who made these poor decisions which I believe led to a loss of revenue to WLBC and its council taxpayers from both the course and the proceeds from the amount of rubble and waste materials which have been dumped.
“Serco will now have six months to comply with the breach of condition notice and remove material from the area around the driving range and the foot golf area.
“I have asked to meet with Serco directors to get to the bottom of what really has gone on.”
Local campaigner Alan Lenton said Serco was supposed to be making a foot golf course and a top-spec nine-hole facility at Beacon Park.
Mr Lenton said: “The simple fact is Serco has been neglecting what it promised to do in the contract.
“If we’re going to have foot golf there it needs to be to the spec laid down by the national association. The nine-hole course is supposed to be actively in use but there’s no topsoil and there are huge boulders showing.
“It’s all got to be put right to the standard asked for and that is a huge job. Someone should now force Serco into direct action but it’s going to cost them a fortune.”
The course has been the scene of a five-year saga following Serco’s decision to outsource work to Oaklands Leisure.
Residents have complained of a lack of oversight of the kind of materials being dumped at the course or how much money was being made by the subcontractors.
Ms Cooper has met with Serco’s directors and WLBC officials numerous times to try to move the issue forward.
In a statement a WLBC spokesperson said: “The council can confirm that it has issued a Breach of Condition Notice in relation to the former driving range area due to the works on site being significantly different from that shown on the plans approved by the borough council.
“Material has been deposited in three locations on the golf course, the former driving range, alongside the first fairway and the new nine-hole golf course.
“While the total amount of material deposited on the golf course is within the limits allowed under the planning consent, larger amounts of material have been deposited than shown on the approved plans in the areas in question.
“It is only in the case of the former driving range, however, that the non-compliance with the approved plan is deemed so significant as to warrant the council taking action. During the deposit of material, the council contacted the Environment Agency to ensure that proper monitoring of the type of material being brought on to the site was in place.
“The council has been in discussions with the site operator, Serco, and they have undertaken to take the actions required to overcome the council’s concerns and to remedy the breach of planning control.
“The deputy directors of leisure and wellbeing and development and regeneration met recently with the MP to inform her of the latest position and the action being taken.”
Mark Snaylam, Contract Manager for West Lancashire Community Leisure Limited said: “We acknowledge receipt of the ‘Breach of Condition Notice’ and we are currently working with the Local Authority Planning Team to comply with the conditions of the notice.
"We have met with MP Rosie Cooper previously and we re-assure her of our intentions to comply fully with the requirements of the council.”