This is an area of work in which KKP has developed extensive specialist expertise in recent years. Golf courses (in particular municipal courses) are under pressure as a result of declining usage levels, condition and financial performance. In a number of instances pressure comes in respect of the need to find space for potential housing development.
Over the past two to three years KKP has conducted golf needs assessments for clients in West Yorkshire, the East and West Midlands, and the North West, plus other planning consultants, developers and private clubs. We have also worked with local authorities to improve the business and social performance of municipal courses and in other instances to assess the validity and justifiability of alternative sport and recreation plans for existing courses in London and Greater Birmingham.
Needs assessments are required whether proposals apply to course size reduction, change of use (for alternative recreation provision or open space) or development (usually for housing). Key to this assessment is the evaluation of whether they are ‘surplus to requirement’. While the basis for ‘proving’ such an assumption is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, a range of issues related to supply, demand and potential alternative uses must be considered. This is necessary not only to satisfy any subsequent planning enquiry scrutiny but also to ensure that the quality and depth of research is sufficient to defend the findings against any commercial or emotive responses that the loss or retention of a course can engender.
Key to our work and the confidence that Sport England and other clients and commentators (including England Golf) have in KKP is the fact that the needs assessment processes we undertake are inviolate. Whether commissioned by a developer wishing to build houses or an agency wishing to prevent or delimit such a development, we utilise the same core methodology to ensure that the outcome is wholly valid, defensible and can withstand the scrutiny of a planning enquiry.
KKP combines a detailed understanding of golf courses and facilities, including the way in which demand for the sport continues to fluctuate, with an appreciation of the gravity of the situation faced by many local authorities to find land upon which to enable the development of housing. This sits alongside a detailed understanding of the wider planning issues associated with open spaces, blue-green infrastructure (BGI) and playing field provision.