Report of the Head of In-House Operational Services.
The Cabinet considered the report of the Head of Operational In-House Services updating on the outcome of recent consultation and market testing exercises relating to the current condition, and potential improvements, to Southport Golf Links. It had been established there was much potential and opportunities to develop the user experience, and income generated from both the course and its build facilities for players and non-golfers alike.
The report also sought approval to tender for partner/s to develop the proposals and provide investment models to enact these for the improvements to both the course and/or the Whitehouse Café.
(1) the outcome of the public consultation and soft market testing exercises to date be noted;
(2) the outline Vision for the site as set out in the report be agreed;
(3) the concept of attracting investment in facilities at Southport Golf Links be supported as a means of delivering the above vision;
(4) officers be authorised to formally tender for potential partner/investment in Southport Golf Links course itself, as a capital scheme, but for the Council to retain full ongoing management and operational control;
(5) officers be authorised to formally tender for potential partner/investment in the White House café, for a medium-term lease where they would be expected to invest in the building, and then operate it fully for the agreed term and for an agreed rent;
(6) regular updates be submitted to the Cabinet Member - Health and Well Being on progress as the process develops; and
(7) a further report to be presented to Cabinet on the investments proposed for consideration.
Reasons for the Decision:
Southport Golf Links is a popular municipal course in the area however, participation is variable. The course operates at a surplus (generating more income than it costs to provide) but does not currently meet its income targets, including those additional targets set in 2019/20 associated with the development of a potential new driving range and other practice facilities.
The previous approach of reinvestment of income surplus to the target in the 2000’s came to an end some time ago, and now the infrastructure of the course is coming to the end of its useful life – capital investment is needed to improve the course and its facilities. The course investment would also include helping to resolve drainage issues and reduce the number of days when the course is closed due to waterlogging.
The concession for the Whitehouse Café came to an end in 2013/14, and the vacant building presents an opportunity to provide a new hospitality facility for both golfers and non-golfers alike.
Recent consultation has shown both golfers and non-players alike would like to see investment in both the Whitehouse Café and on the course itself.
A soft market testing exercise undertaken in 2021 confirmed the private sector interest in working with the Council to develop the course and its facilities, and as outlined in the report, suggests significant opportunity to now tender formally to explore and understand the offers for investment in either, and/or the course and its buildings.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected:
If no investment in the course is undertaken, the quality of the course and facilities will continue to decline over coming years which will reduce the participation in golf (thereby not reaping the many health and well-being benefits for players), and inevitably therefore, the income generated by the course will reduce further too.
The options considered for the investment route have been explained within the report, and the recommendations are based on considering the risk assessment against these approaches.