Council plan to buy historic golf house to build £5m Wakefield traveller site could avoid public inquiry, report states

A plan to buy an historic golf house in order to build a £5m extension to a traveller site in Wakefield could avoid the need for a public inquiry, according to a report.

By Tony Gardner
Wednesday, 13th July 2022, 5:03 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th July 2022, 5:05 pm

Details of the proposal to purchase the Old Golf House, on Heath Common, have been partly published ahead of Wakefield Council’s Cabinet meeting.

Financial details relating to the plan are not being made available to public to 'prevent attempts to intimidate' the seller.

Senior councillors are being asked to agree to acquiring the property so controversial plans to extend the traveller site on Doncaster Road can go ahead.

Details of the proposal to purchase the Old Golf House, on Heath Common, have been published ahead of Wakefield Council’s Cabinet meeting.

Wakefield Council has already backed the plan to extend the city’s largest publicly-run traveller site to cater for growing demand.

Heath Common could be extended to 61 permanent pitches, up from its current number of 38, at a cost of £5.8m.

The report states that the land to be developed is currently subject to a covenant to keep it as common land.

Any application to remove the covenant would have to be advertised and referred to the Planning Inspectorate.

The Old Golf House, Heath Common.

The report states: “Should the Inspector receive a significant number of objections, the matter would be referred to a Public Inquiry.

“Therefore, whilst the initial process is relatively straight forward, there is a risk of significant delays to the delivery of the scheme.”

Councillors are advised that the issue can be resolved by “the acquisition of a property in close proximity to the Heath Traveller site.”

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The report continues: “This will provide much greater certainty of delivery of a gypsy and traveller site extension in this location.”

The report states that alternative sites across the district have been considered, but adds: “The search for another site elsewhere in the district has been ongoing for several years but it has not been possible to find a better location than the site under consideration here.”

The report also advises against providing an access road to the new site direct from Doncaster Road across additional common land.

It states: “It is highly likely that in this situation there would be significant objections to the proposal which would result in a public inquiry which could halt the delivery of a traveller site in this location.”

A part of the report which sets out the financial details relating to the property purchase is not being made public.

The report states: “Whilst there is a clear public interest in being transparent about the spending of public money, in this case this is outweighed by the need to keep personal and financial information of the vendors confidential under the Data Protection Act and to prevent any attempts to intimidate the vendors to block the sale and to frustrate the scheme development.”

“Officers have worked hard to retain a good relationship with the vendors and believe the transaction can be taken to a successful conclusion.”

The Cabinet will consider the report at a meeting on Tuesday July 19.

The Leader of Wakefield Council, Denise Jeffery, has previously acknowledged there is opposition to the plan from local residents, but the authority says it is legally obliged to accommodate travelling families.

Warmfield-cum-Heath Parish Council has said it objects to the new traveller site “in the strongest possible terms.”

Heath Common was the original home of Wakefield Golf Club, which opened in 1892.

The clubhouse building opened in October 1897.

Wakefield Golf Club relocated to Woodthorpe in 1911 but the original clubhouse building remains as a residential property.