“Get orf moi land!” The Viz comic image of a red-faced Farmer Palmer, shot gun at the ready, might not be quite what you’d expect to encounter in quiet, polite, suburban Croham or Selsdon.
But that’s the message from the £200-million charitable trust, the Whitgift Foundation, to local residents, joggers, dog-walkers and ramblers, and especially for its neighbours living along Farley Road.
Residents whose properties back on to Croham Hurst golf course have this month received a letter from the club which warns them not to dump garden waste over their back fences on to the course nor to trespass on the 18 holes’ carefully manicured fairways, or risk being reported to the police.
The letter to residents, from golf club manager Stephen Mackinson, talks of “substantial amounts of garden waste and rubbish” being dumped at the rear of properties along Farley Road on to the golf course. “This is unacceptable and must cease,” Mackinson’s letter states, emphatically.
And with underlining, the golf club officials states, “Access of any kind is forbidden.”
Croham Hurst Golf Club is widely regarded as one of the best courses, and best-kept, in south London and Surrey. First laid out in 1911, annual membership costs £1,565, and green fees for one round can cost £50.
The club owns its car park area and club house. But the vast expanse of the course is part of the massive property portfolio of the Whitgift Foundation, which leases it to the golfers.
Unusually for a suburban course, there are no public rights of way or footpaths across Croham Hurst’s fairways, which abut the public open space of Croham Hurst Woods to the south of the course, off Upper Selsdon Road.
“Our landlords,” Mackinson writes, referring to the Whitgift Foundation, “… have instructed CHGC to ensure that no one other than authorised members and guests of the club are allowed access to the golf course at any time. Anyone in contravention who is seen on the course is trespassing and will be reported to the police.”
The Whitgift Foundation is a registered charity and Croydon’s biggest land owners, with assets worth more than £200 million. As well as running three independent schools (with annual fees of up to £34,656) and three almshouses, they also own playing fields, shops and buildings in the area, as well as the Whitgift Centre, which is subject of the much-delayed £1 billion redevelopment by Westfield and Hammerson.
And now the Foundation has decided to play hard-ball with anyone daring to encroach on its property around the golf course.Many properties which back on to the course have gates built into their back fences opening out to the course. “If you or a previous owner of your property has installed a gate or formed an access point from your property on to the course, it must not be utilised for fear of prosecution and it is within our rights to block such access,” club manager Mackinson’s letter warns.
One senior member of the club told Inside Croydon: “It’s a problem that’s been going on for years. They use the course to dump their rubbish, which is a nuisance, and some just go out on to the course to walk their dogs – and that can be dangerous with golf balls flying around at 180mph.”
Mackinson stressed today that his letter from the golf club was to fulfill his responsibilities towards their landlords. “Part of our lease is that we have to ensure that the land is looked after in a proper way,” he said. “It is private land, and there is no public access for jogging or dog walking at all. The Whitgift Foundation insist that we enforce this.
“We have written to neighbours before, and we have signs all around the course saying that it is private land. But there are parts of the course which are not fenced off and people do sometimes stray on to the course by accident, too. It can be dangerous.”
Asked whether the golf club’s landlords had ever considered “managing” access to the course, perhaps with a public footpath from Croham Hurst across towards Croham Valley Road, Mackinson said, “They would never allow that.”
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