Brandhall Golf Course – your questions answered
People have asked us a number of questions about the future of Brandhall Golf Course. We've answered some of your questions here.
Questions and answers
When did Cabinet decide to close the golf course?
Following an extensive consultation, the council has considered people’s views. The consultation findings and considerations of the Safer Neighbourhoods and Active Communities Scrutiny Board formed part of a report to Cabinet on 27 May to enable members to make a final decision. Cabinet approved a recommendation to close the course and club house.
Given that the course has been closed for more than two months due to the coronavirus outbreak, and it has not been possible for essential and planned maintenance to be carried out, it would take considerable time and money to return the course to playable use.
This would also take resources and staff away from essential council services. With that in mind, the course remains closed following the Cabinet approving the recommendation regarding closure.
We will work with Sandwell Leisure Trust, the golf club, its members and other relevant stakeholders, and further information will be available in due course. Existing leases will also be considered.
Why has a decision been made now?
The consultation ended in December and consultation findings were considered by the Safer Neighbourhoods and Active Communities Scrutiny Board in February.
The council needed to fully consider the consultation findings and considerations of the scrutiny board and was ready to bring a report and recommendation to Cabinet in May for a final decision to be made.
What happens next?
Now a decision has been taken to close the golf course, any proposals to develop the site in the future will now be subject to a detailed master plan. Local people would be fully consulted as part of the planning process before any decisions were taken regarding redevelopment.
What other golf courses are available in the local area?
There are six other golf facilities in Sandwell, which include 18-hole, nine-hole and pitch and putt courses, and more than 30 further golf facilities within a 20-minute drive of Sandwell.
Do other golf courses offer a ‘pay and play’ option?
Yes, all the golf courses in Sandwell offer pay and play options, giving you the option to turn up and play at these courses without being a member.
Is there availability at other local golf club courses to cater for more users?
Yes, following a recent review, all golf courses in the local area can accommodate more golfers.
Do other local golf clubs / courses offer lessons?
Lots of other local courses do offer lessons, we would advise checking with courses directly because detail will vary.
Do other local golf clubs / courses have competitions?
All clubs have competitions, but this will be different at each club – so it is worth checking with each one for their competition schedule.
What would happen to the club house – would it be demolished?
The Cabinet report recommended the closure of the club house as well as the course itself, and this was approved by Cabinet. The closure of the club house will be carried out in line with existing lease arrangements. Whether or not the existing buildings would be demolished will depend on any agreed plans moving forward.
If development proposals are taken forward in the future, we would also look at the possibility of a community social venue in future planning for the site.
Why has no maintenance been carried out on the site during the coronavirus (Covid-19) ‘lockdown’?
Due to the current pandemic situation, all grounds maintenance activities were suspended. Employees were re-deployed to support essential services helping vulnerable residents and reacting to emergency situations.
Following the decision by Cabinet to close the golf course, the council will ensure site security and now grass cutting and maintenance duties are starting to resume, we shall seek to maintain the site to a level that allows local residents to use it for walking and other recreational physical activities.
How many staff are affected/may lose jobs?
There are six people in total who were involved in running the golf course. They were briefed about the proposals and consulted as part of the consultation process.
The four council grounds maintenance staff who usually work at Brandhall will move into other positions in the council, and Sandwell Leisure Trust will work with their staff/contractors to look at options for the future.
How many new homes do you estimate could be built on the site?
It would depend on the amount of open space included in any development, as well as the size and type of housing provided. We will not know for certain until after we have prepared a master plan for the site.
The consultation included three different options for the size of park that could be created alongside a school and homes if the course were to close. Most survey respondents preferred our development option with the largest amount of accessible open space alongside new housing and a school.
What type of new homes would they be?
We envisage there could be a mix of tenures/ownerships on the site. Planning policy requires a minimum of 25% affordable housing. These could be affordable homes provided by registered providers of social housing, they could be council homes, or a mix of both.
We shall not know a detailed mix of housing types or tenures until after we have prepared a detailed master plan for the site. However, the council would consider all options for tenure including private ownership, shared ownership and starter homes to help meet the housing needs of Sandwell’s younger people.
How much and what percentage of the Brandhall Golf Course site do you envisage would be retained as green space after new homes and the school are built?
The amount of open space was one of the key parts of the public consultation. The consultation included three different options for the size of park that could be created alongside a school and homes if the course closes.
There are options with 4.5 hectares area of open space (equivalent to 7 football pitches), 6 hectares of spaces (equivalent to 10 football pitches) and 8.5 hectares of open space (equivalent to 14 football pitches). 8.5ha is the same size as Brunswick Park in Wednesbury or equivalent to six Parsons Hill Parks (1.37ha). The 8.5ha option would mean we would be retaining approximately a quarter of the site as formal open space.
In addition to this there would be elements of landscaping across the site, and a linear area of open space that would be retained as a buffer for the motorway and overhead pylons. These have not been included as part of the 8.5ha figure.
Most survey respondents felt that the amenities the council is proposing are important, with most respondents preferring our development option with the largest amount of accessible open space alongside new housing and a school.
Would the road network be redesigned/new roads built to cope with extra traffic?
As with any proposed new development, the impact it would have on the surrounding highway network would be investigated and assessed in depth within a transport assessment. This would include an estimate on the amounts of traffic that would be generated by each element of any redevelopment and at what times that traffic would likely travel (through past experience and using industry standard evaluation tools).
Existing base traffic levels would be collected through surveys and then the impact of any new additional traffic to the network would be modelled to assess what mitigation would be required to negate that impact. This could include junction improvements, new roads and junctions, improved pedestrian crossing facilities and other highway safety improvements depending on the finding of the study.
How much would the school cost the council to build?
This would be dependent on the proposed plans.
How would wildlife and trees on the site be protected?
An independent tree survey would be carried out as part of a master plan for the site. This survey would help identify where there are important trees that need to be retained and protected in any new development. The survey would also identify any trees that are diseased or of poor quality.
A master plan would show where trees are to be retained and where new trees should be planted. There would also be an ecological survey to identify the species of plants and animals / birds on the site. In accordance with planning policy, steps would need to be taken to mitigate the impact on any animals and birds using the site. We would not know what these could be until we have the ecological survey. There is also the opportunity to enhance the landscape, including trees, as part of a new development.
How much would it cost to create a new park and maintain it?
If the council decides to develop the site and create a new park, the size and type of park would need to be carefully considered and this, together with any facilities, would determine how much it would cost to create and maintain.
Would Parsons Hill Park be retained/incorporated into the new park?
It is proposed that Parsons Hill Park is considered as part of the potential wider development site and is replaced as part of any new park. Parsons Hill Park could be a good location for new homes with the park being incorporated into the wider open space provision across the site.
Why is Sandwell Council considering building on green space?
Brandhall Golf Course is currently classed as restricted because it is not fully accessible to the public. This means local people are not able to use this green space as they would other local parks. Now the decision has been made to close the golf course, this provides an opportunity to consider opening part of the site to local people as a fully accessible public park. By doing this we would be making green space more accessible in the community.
Why is Sandwell Council considering building houses on a greenfield site when there are brownfield sites available? What brownfield sites have been/are being considered for new homes?
The council has a brownfield first policy, meaning that brownfield sites should be considered for development first. All large brownfield sites are already allocated for housing, meaning that housing development would be supported on these sites.
The issue with some of the brownfield sites is that they are not viable for housing because of land contamination. The council is working with the landowners of brownfield sites, where possible, to support them to bring the site forward for housing using grant where possible such as Mill Lane off Station Road in Oldbury that is currently on site.
However, should the housing supply from all allocated sites be brought forward, which may not be possible, there would still be a shortfall in terms of the council’s current targets for housing need. The development of greenfield sites does therefore need to be considered to meet this housing shortfall.
What would happen to the existing Causeway Green Primary site if it gets replaced?
The council will look to develop an option appraisal for the vacant school site to support the follow-up report to Cabinet. Should the existing school site be released for development, housing development would be considered appropriate as it is within a predominantly residential area, although the vehicular access to the site would require further investigation.
What and where would extra school places be provided for children who will live in the proposed new housing?
Once planning approval for any residential development was granted, and the type of housing confirmed, the council would look at the number of potential school places a new housing development might create. Over recent years, the council has expanded a number of local primary and secondary schools in response to a significant birth rate across the borough.
Demand for school places has eased with a fall in the latest birth rates, which will lead to a manageable surplus of places in schools that could accommodate any new demand following occupation of any new housing.
Has the council considered the flood risk on the site and how this could affect developing it for housing?
Any proposals for developments would require the preparation of a Flood Risk Assessment to identify any potential flooding issues and solutions. As part of the Flood Risk Assessment, a drainage strategy would be required which would identify how sustainable drainage systems could contribute towards a proposed solution.
The results of the Flood Risk Assessment and the proposed solutions to any potential flooding issues would be incorporated into any master plan layout and concept plan.
If more houses are built and the number of residents in the local area increases, how will the council ensure that everybody has adequate access to local services (GPs etc)?
The council would work with its partners, including the National Health Service at its regional level, to assess the potential levels of future demand for community services as a result of any redevelopment and compare it with the levels of existing provision. Any areas of potential shortfall of provision that are identified would then be a priority to be addressed by the partners.
Wouldn’t a new park just encourage more anti-social behaviour?
We would ensure through the design, management and usage of the park that it provides the opportunity for people to engage in positive activities. We would work with our Anti-Social Behaviour teams to ensure that this has a positive impact on the local community.