Golf courses and housing developments

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick June 21, 2024 10:18

The UK is in the midst of a housing crisis. A shortage of properties is pushing rental prices up and making first-time buying unaffordable for many. The solution is to build more houses, which requires land. Where better to build than on the local golf course?

England is estimated to have over 1800 golf courses, far more than its neighbours on the continent. As the demand rises, the pressure for space will build. Below, we look into golf courses and their relationship to new housing.

Why golf courses?

The most obvious reason to use a golf course is that it takes up a lot of room. Some areas, such as Surrey, contain more land with golf courses than land with homes.

Many of them are also membership-only courses. This means they are used by the few, as opposed to other sports venues that attract huge numbers of people to spectate. Take a football stadium, for example. It uses less space and pulls in spectators who also contribute to the local economy. That isn’t always the case with golf, unless a major event is taking place.

In addition to this, everyone knows that prices have gone up across the board. Running a business is now more costly, and that includes operating a golf club. With land also rising in price, it makes sense that most club owners would be tempted to sell up and retire.

Are other sports threatened?

Golf is not the only sport where its land is prime real estate territory. Horse racing courses have long been a target for development, with many of them falling foul of it in the past. Long lost racecourses include Stockton Racecourse, which was turned into an out-of-town shopping mall, and Manchester Racecourse, which was turned into student accommodation.

Yet one difference is that horse racing betting is now bigger than ever, as is the gambling industry. A lack of courses, and thus meetings, would damage the sector much more than a reduction in golf events. In addition, placing bets on horse races is a more universally accepted pastime, conducted across social boundaries from the working populace to the royal family. Golf is still viewed as an elitist sport, particularly when so many courses have expensive memberships. The outcry from their closure will undoubtedly be from a minority that others may not have sympathy for.

How easy is it to turn a golf course into housing?

Luckily, it is not that easy for any sports facility to be redeveloped for other uses, including housing. This is subject to the National Planning Policy Framework. Firstly, clubs need to be surplus to requirements. A new provision must also be made to replace it, of equal quality or quantity. Finally, it may be redeveloped only if it is to be used for another sport or recreation.

At least one of these needs to be true, meaning that many courses are protected by law. Yet, people are trying to change this. The architectural firm RCK has already made moves to build housing on Enfield Golf Course in London. They would do this by reducing the number of holes on the course to nine and building on the remaining land.

This could be a fate many courses see shortly. However, with robust legal protection, courses should hold firm for some time. If people continue to use and enjoy them, they should stick around.


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick June 21, 2024 10:18
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