Golfers cut up rough over food hub plan

Malcolm Jukes
Malcolm Jukes

PLANS to make Wigan’s jewel-in-the-crown Haigh Hall a foodie haven have left an unpleasant smell with resident golfers.

They have been angered by proposals to convert their toilets and changing rooms into a micro-brewery while the country park’s golf shop becomes a visitor centre.

I have no problem with all the food and drink stuff at Haigh Hall. I just don’t think it should be at the expense of our facilities

Malcolm Jukes

Haigh Hall Golf Club members believe Wigan Council could be in breach of a 1999 agreement with Sport England in which £2.2m was awarded for an overhaul of courses and other golf facilities.

Any changes to what the organisation helped paid for needs permission from Sport England until 2020 when a 21-year asset liability agreement expires. Pressing ahead regardless could see the trust having to hand some of the money back.

Later this year The Stables section of the hall will become home to a number of food and drink-related establishments.

The Kitchen Courtyard aims to welcome more than 150,000 food tourists each year, with the main attractions targeted to be a baker, delicatessen, butcher, cheese-maker, chocolatier, ice cream parlour and a new restaurant and tea room. The micro-brewery was earmarked as the anchor tenant.

The council said today that if anything facilities for the golfers in the long run will be improved and would be in talks with the relevant parties.

But at least some club members have so far failed to be convinced.

Malcolm Jukes said: “It is just not on. They have not consulted the golfers at all on this.

“I have no problem with all the food and drink stuff at Haigh Hall. I just don’t think it should be at the expense of our facilities. The most annoying thing is the men’s and women’s changing rooms are being taken away to be turned into a micro-brewery. The alternative thereafter will be going to the urinals around the other side of the Stables near the playground, but that is nowhere near good enough, not least because there isn’t any privacy or any lockers to store clothes.

“The trust say they will look at alternative changing facilities in the longer run but they should be providing them before they close the old ones.

“This is going to be a big deterrent to people coming to play golf at Haigh and I really do think that the trust could be in bother with Sport England who gave them money in good faith to spend on golf facilities in 1999 on the understanding they were used in that way for at least 21 years unless permission was granted by Sport England.

“I have been corresponding with Sport England and this permission has not been granted and yet the trust is going full steam ahead with the project.”

Sport England spokesman Andrew St Ledger said: “We have been made aware of these changes that are being talked about at Haigh Hall, therefore we are currently speaking to the council to get more information about that.

“We need to seek further information before we decide what to do about it.

“When we award funding, especially when there is a facilities element, there are contract terms that dictate a minimum time period for use. That is typically 21 years. We need to look at that in detail in relation to golf at Haigh Hall.”

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy has also become involved, writing to Pete Burt, chief executive of Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles - the new name of Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust which runs the council’s leisure facilities - seeking reassurances that the Haigh Hall Golf Club members would not lose out.