Fore! Golf course and hotel latest properties in council fire sale

Chipper: the Coulsdon Manor golf course is being sold by the council

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Four public-owned properties, not mentioned in the council’s original disposals list, are now being sold off as the Town Hall gets itself out of the hotels business. By PEARL LEE, our south of the borough correspondent

The cash-strapped council’s fire sale continues, with a former primary school, garages, a scout hut and a hotel and golf course among the latest public assets that are being flogged off to try to plug the gaping holes in the Town Hall finances caused by Tony Newman and his numpties.

Included on the same council report as the controversial plan to lease Heathfield House to a special needs school, last week’s cabinet meeting also rubber-stamped proposals for the sale of the former CALAT adult education centre in Coulsdon, as well as a garage site on Windmill Road (both had been sites earmarked for development by Brick by Brick) and the vacated scout hut on Peppermint Walk.

None of these properties were included in the original listing of sites for disposal published by the council in February. The council lacks the cash to maintain or repair some of the more run-down buildings.

The CALAT centre: Brick by Brick failed to deliver the housing, community centre and health facilities promised for Coulsdon

The sale of the CALAT site admits, officially for the first time in four years, the abject failure of Brick by Brick to pull together the development of three sites in Coulsdon, where residents were promised a new health centre and community centre in return for building dozens more flats.

The future of the Coulsdon Community Centre, and the many local groups which make good use of that building, therefore remains in doubt.

Under the dire circumstances that the Town Hall’s Labour administration created, the sale of under-used or surplus assets might seem a reasonable course to take. And unlike the sweetheart deal to sell Brick by Brick at a discount of around £100million to one “preferential bidder”, the government inspectors overseeing the council’s business have this time not stepped in to block any of the deals.

Even so, none of the four sites, according to the council’s own report, have “been subject to marketing as it is considered that all are subject to ‘special purchaser’ criteria that demonstrates either an uplift in value on likely market values or significant benefits to the council/local area in addition to achieving best consideration”.

Of course, the council being the council, none of the terms agreed on these potentially multi-million-pound property deals have been divulged to the public.

Secret sections: the values of the sales of the three sites have been kept from the public

The council report, which was drafted by Sarah Hayward, as the interim director of Place, claims that “all assets have been valued by an external valuer as part of the disposal process and the terms agreed have been approved by the head of asset management before being put through the formal governance process”.

The cabinet report also sees the council firmly exiting the hotel business.

Councils in Croydon had owned local hotels long before the dodgy deal that discredited former council leader Tony Newman helped to push through for the purchase of the Croydon Park Hotel.

In fact, the Coulsdon and Purley Urban District Council bought the grand country house that was known then as Coulsdon Court in 1937. The accompanying golf course, which was opened as a private club in 1926, has been a public golf course for the last 84 years and, importantly, the sale deal agreed by the council this week includes a condition that that status remains.

Bespoke Hotels have operated the re-styled Coulsdon Manor Hotel and golf course for the past 21 years, and it was they who approached Croydon Council to take the property off their hands.

A rarity: Coulsdon Manor is to remain a public golf course

Coulsdon Manor and the surrounding 140 acres, once the home of the Byron family, is on the Local List of Historic Parks and Gardens.

Coulsdon Court Woods form part of a Site of Nature Conservation Importance, and the entire site is in the Metropolitan Green Belt. But the house is not listed.

The golf course is currently let under the terms of a 125-year lease, with 103 years remaining.

The hotel operators paid an initial premium of £150,000 in 1999, when taking on the business, and according to the council report they have paid a seemingly modest annual rental of around £19,000, “based upon a percentage of the turnover income”.

The council says that the 42-room hotel, with its function rooms and restaurant “is let on a separate lease of a similar length with 103 years remaining but is on a peppercorn rent. An initial premium of £600,000 was paid in 1999 for the lease”.

The terms of the sale to Bespoke Hotels have been kept secret by the council.

This is not the first time that Croydon Council has sold off a golf course: in 2014, the sale of the Addington Palace golf club was one of the first secretive property deals carried out by Simon Hall, the finance chief in Newman’s cabinet. The price paid for that valuable piece of Green Belt real estate has never been released, and so the public have been denied an opportunity to assess whether it represented best value.

The sale of the Coulsdon Manor is different, at least because it is to remain a public course, open to anyone to use after paying a daily greens fee. Most golf clubs require players to stump up thousands of pounds in annual membership, making them a bastion for the rich and privileged. As a public course, therefore, Coulsdon Manor is a rarity in what used to be known as the Surrey Stockbroker Belt.


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7 Responses to Fore! Golf course and hotel latest properties in council fire sale

  1. Lancaster says:

    History and past performance will no doubt dictate that the Council will have rings run around them by the purchasers and will end up being paid far less than they are worth or would get if they had any one working for them with some business savvy.

    Katherine Kerswell also told all staff at one of her and Hamida Ali webinars that they would do a full investigation into any wrongdoing and mismanagement that might have led the council to its current position. Guess what… surprise, surprise; no news back on that yet. Probably hoping shifting all the old dead wood out, inserting new dead wood will take the eyes of the staff off that promise, that or giving herself enough time to make most staff redundant.

  2. The Labour Party’s 156-page rule book includes, at Chapter 13, clause II, section D, part iii, this warning:

    “Members of the Labour group shall have a responsibility to take up such opportunities of training and development that may be provided by the council or the group or Party, in order better to carry out their activities as effective and influential councillors. Through their council duties and activities in the community, members of the Labour group should seek to promote Party policies and to represent and empower local people and communities, and act in a way that does not bring the Party into disrepute.”

    So how come the clueless clots who in their reckless stupidity have ruined our council haven’t been subject to any disciplinary action?

    Newman and Hall jumped before they were pushed. What about the other rubbish?

  3. Some time ago, relating to other sales, you wrote”

    ‘Indeed, the very idea that receipts from the land sales might be used to fund public services is deeply misleading. Councils are prohibited by the law from using capital receipts to do this.”

    So what’s changed? The law or the disregard for legal niceties?

    • Nothing’s changed, Arno. But the income from these sales may be used to pay off the council’s loans, loan interest or the rest of the £1.5bn mountain of debt that Tory and Labour administrations managed to accrue over the last decade.

      • Thanks….it may repay a smidgeon of the interest due but its not really going to make a real dent in the overall deficit. If I didn’t know better and didn’t dislike the source so much I’d call it gesture politics!

  4. Stella says:

    Just having a drink in the Coulsdon Manor as we read this from Insidecroydon. Coulsdon Manor was up for sale for £5m a couple of years ago under a property company called Victorian Properties, which must have been declined from Croydon Council as no one ever bought it, wonder what they have settled for now as they are so desperate. In the 1980s the council tried to pull it down – local residents prevented it happening. I wish there was more transparency for the residents of Coulsdon. It is a beautiful property but so badly managed and clearly run for tax purposes only.

    Have used this hotel for over 40 years and seen so much that has gone on there.

  5. Pingback: Council to sell golf course following bankruptcy notice | The Golf Business

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