Wakefield councillors to hold private meeting to discuss buying historic golf house at Heath Common to keep £5m traveller site plan on course

Senior councillors are to consider a plan to buy an historic former golf club house in Wakefield to make way for a traveller site costing almost £6m.

By Tony Gardner
Monday, 4th July 2022, 11:40 am

Members of Wakefield Council’s cabinet will meet in private to discuss the possibility of purchasing the Old Golf House on Heath Common.

The building stands close to the site of a proposed extension to an existing gypsy and traveller site off Doncaster Road.

Members of Wakefield Council’s cabinet will meet in private to discuss the possibility of purchasing the Old Golf House on Heath Common.

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

Cabinet members will consider a proposal relating to the ‘acquisition of key property to bring forward the gypsy and traveller project’ at a meeting on July 19.

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Warmfield-cum-Heath Parish Council are objecting to a new traveller site “in the strongest possible terms.”

The Old Golf House on Heath Common.

A spokesperson for the parish council said: “The existing site has been part of our community for over 50 years and, under the management of Wakefield Council, the residents have brought numerous benefits to the area and are a stable part of the community.

“Through dialogue with both the residents of the existing site and the local community, it is evident that another site is not wanted and, indeed, could disrupt a now settled community.

“No consultation by Wakefield Council has been undertaken, even though, in a report which was accepted by Cabinet on January 12, 2021, it was stated that:

“‘Any proposal to develop Council land at Heath Common for gypsy and traveller accommodation would be subject to consultation with the local community and travelling community prior to and through the planning process, as part of securing the necessary planning permission, in accordance with the Council’s Statement of Community Involvement.’

The Old Golf House on Heath Common.

“‘In addition, prior to any formal works taking place, wider consultation will take place with the local community and stakeholders.’

“There are still unanswered questions raised by the Inspectorate.

“It is now apparent that Wakefield Council are set to approve the purchase of the golf house on Heath Common, a landmark and historically important building, home to the original Wakefield Golf Club.

“They want to acquire the golf house in order to ‘bring forward plans to create a gypsy and traveller site’.

“Wakefield’s Forward Plan of Key Decisions indicates who to contact to obtain copies of documents and make representations.

“However, as this is a ‘private’ meeting, we are unable to do this.

“As the golf house holds a covenant over the land Wakefield Council is proposing to use for the site, the acquisition of the property would be a way of circumventing this obstacle.

“Warmfield cum Heath Parish Council are monitoring the situation and will oppose the proposals at all stages of the process.”

Glynn Humphries, Wakefield Council’s Service Director for Communities, Environment and Climate Change, said: “Cabinet gave approval in January 2021 for the extension of the gypsy and travellers site at Heath Common.

“This was to ensure the Council can comply with its legal obligations to reduce the number of illegal encampments across the district and meet the accommodation needs of the traveller community.

“The site is identified in the emerging Wakefield District Local Plan 2036, which has been the subject of significant statutory consultation and engagement processes, as a gypsy and traveller allocation.

“The potential purchase of the Old Golf House would allow the reconfiguration of the existing site and enable the creation of a legally required transit gypsy and traveller space.

“The extension of the site will ensure that we can provide sufficient pitches to meet the demands of the traveller community, and significantly benefit the wider community, by reducing illegal encampments or enabling the Council or police to move them on more quickly.”

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.

Speaking at the meeting in January last year Coun Jeffery said: “I have had a number of letters about this. I hope people appreciate this is something we have to do.

“I know it’s difficult for people – they don’t want it in their area, but we’ve been talking about this for sometime and I agree we need to move forward to the next stage in the process.”

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

The clubhouse building opened in October 1897.

The opening was marked by an exhibition match featuring Harry Vardon, who won The Open Championship on six occasions.

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