Hotel sports resort plan for Doncaster could create 130 jobs

This is the state of the art Doncaster complex which officials hope could create 130 jobs and represent the future of golf in the UK.

Thursday, 15th March 2018, 9:16 am
Updated Thursday, 15th March 2018, 9:20 am
The planned hotel and sports complex at Bawtry Golf Club

Plans have been drawn up that would see a 68 bedroom hotel built at Austerfield as well as a classroom, and a driving range, with plans to bring in a new, quick form of golf to make it more accessible and appealing to families.

But the experts behind the scheme, at Bawtry Golf Club, at Cross Lane, say they would have to build 18 luxury houses on countryside land next the course to help raise £3 million towards funding the scheme

The planned hotel and sports complex at Bawtry Golf Club

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The scheme has been shown to Doncaster Council's planning committee, which deferred making a decision on the plans until later this month, because of some councillors' concerns that the houses could end up being built without the new sports facility. They have asked officials to look into putting safeguards into place to make sure the houses can only be built if the wider scheme proceeds.

The architects behind the scheme believe the plans would be a major national project, which could turn around the fall in the number of people taking part in golf, by making it more inclusive and easier to access.

Doncaster Council planning officer Garry Hildersley, said: "The proposal would also include the provision for 130 jobs, being made up of 80 full time and 50 part time. Presently, the existing golfing enterprise accounts for 10 full time jobs."

He said nothing like the scheme planned for Bawtry had been done anywhere else.

The planned hotel and sports complex at Bawtry Golf Club

Architect Jon Rigby, of the Bond Bryan Partnership, said golf clubs were closing nationally due to a fall in participation in the sport of around 40 per cent, and this was partly due to the image of the sport as an old man's game.

He said: "It is in need of regeneration and sites like Bawtry Golf Club need support like this to survive as a vital community asset.

"The ambition is to provide accessible and inclusive access to the whole of the community, not just for those with the spare time and money to play.

"We are looking to challenge pre-conceptions by showing that golf can be enjoyed by the family, as part of a healthy lifesyle."

He said the club was looking to set up an outreach project to get involved with schools to increase participation among youngsters. It has already run a pilot scheme with Balby Carr School. Experts would go out to schools, and groups would be brought in to the course.

The scheme would also include a fitness suite, a village bar, and a conference area, and an academy, contained in a building designed to look like a traditional country house.

Mr Hildersley said he thought the educational benefits and the new amenities in a scheme that could provide a destination of local and regional importance outweighed the harm to the countryside of the construction of 18 houses.

Changing the game

Experts behind the Bawtry Golf Club plan are looking at a range of measures to re-kindle interest in taking part in the game.

At present only 10 per cent of the 44-year-old club's 294 members are under 40. Membership has dropped from 450.

A report to the council stated industry leaders had widely recognised the opportunity for the game to be modernised, with millions of potential new players interested in learning the game, but put off by preconceptions about the sport and the way it is played.

It said the scheme was looking at offering an 'alternative and educational approach to golf', with an emphasis on welcoming and growing grass roots aspects of the game through work with local schools.

They plan to invite local groups to come into take part in educational programmes, with an involvement in the site by Sheffield Hallam University also pledged.

They are also looking at bringing in a shorter six hole version of golf, rather than the usual 18 holes, so people can play even if they have less time. The club says this changes players' perceptions of formal to fun.

They have also suggested bringing in high-tech golf games which can be played by all ages and skill levels, involving the microchipped golf balls on the driving range. The microchips would allow players to be given scores based now how close they get to a target. The further the shot goes and the closer to the target, the more points the player would receives.

Concerns over housing plan

Concerns have been raised over the golf plans - because it will involve building houses on land where it would not usually be allowed.

It would also involve diverting three public rights of way, to allow for the scheme to go ahead.

Councillors told of their concerns.

Coun Jonathan Wood said he was struggling with the concept that the council would have to agree to contravene planning policies and move footpaths, and said previous schemes elsewhere such as footgolf at High Melton had not taken off.

He said he was concerned that giving the housing planning permission could leave the council with new houses on land where they would not normally be permitted, but no golf and leisure development, if any problems arose preventing the main scheme from proceeding.

He asked for safeguards to be put in place to prevent that.

He also raised concerned that the housing would be high value housing. Although no specific figures are yet finalised, Architect Mr Rigby said it was expected that the houses would be valued above £300,000.

Coun Mick Cooper raised concerns that allowing the houses would set a precedent, but senior council officer Richard Purcell said any future schemes would still have to be judged on their merits.

International course on the way

Bawtry is the latest high profile golf scheme lined up for Doncaster.

In 2015, the European Tour backed plans for a new tournament golf destination at Rossington Hall, which is due to see the site transformed into a world class golf complex and resort under the European Tour Destination banner.

A tournament quality 18 hole golf course will be designed and built on the near 500 acre site, complemented by a nine hole club course, a club house, leisure facilities and 500 luxurious homes set alongside the course.

The scheme is currently at the planning stage.