Hundreds object to planned redevelopment of Upminster pitch and putt site
PUBLISHED: 17:00 08 July 2020
Hundreds of people have lodged their opposition to a housing development planned on the site of a pitch and putt in Upminster.
Outline proposals for the demolition of all buildings and the construction of up to 37 homes at the Hall Lane Miniature Golf Course site will go before Havering Council’s strategic planning committee this week.
A report published beforehand shows that 884 objections were submitted against the plans, which have been put forward by the council’s housing company Mercury Land Holdings.
The report says an illustrative layout of the site plans suggest they could include three, four and five-bed properties.
The development could also feature public open spaces as well as vehicle access off Hall Lane.
The applicant says 50 per cent affordable housing is “not viable” on the site, instead offering to provide this at a development in Crow Lane, Romford.
The plans were called in by Councillor Gillian Ford, who represents the Cranham ward where the pitch and putt is located.
She told the Recorder: “It would be a huge loss. It’s a green amenity and a green asset and we’ve just gone through Covid-19 and the suggestion is we need to have these green and open spaces.
“It should not be a consideration of building houses there which are going to be high-end houses.”
The report says there is plans for a £120,000 investment for improved facilities at Upminster Hall Playing Fields, also in Hall Lane.
But Cllr Ford said: “You cannot improve Hall Lane playing fields to the level of what the Upminster Pitch and Putt site is because they are two different entities. Hall Lane playing fields are dedicated as sports pitches so it is not the same ethos.”
She added that she had received reports from people who claimed they had travelled to the pitch and putt to play when it should have been open only to find it was closed.
The current attraction is not open permanently but is open during school holidays between April and October as well as on certain weekends.
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An assessment submitted among application documentation concluded that the pitch and putt facility is “loss making”, “not of a high standard” and “not well used”.
Planning officers recommended granting the outline permission, with all matters reserved except for access, and the report said one of the key reasons for this was the current use of the site being considered “surplus to requirements”.
The report said: “Weighing all the factors, including the ‘tilted balance’ in favour of development engaged due to the council’s record on housing delivery, it is considered that any harm identified with the proposal is outweighed by the presumption in favour of sustainable development.”
Kevin Kilbey, chair of Friends of Upminster Mini Golf, said the group is opposing the plans.
It was set up in 2016 to improve the site, encourage community involvement and protect it from development.
He said: “The pitch and putt course represents a unique recreational facility as the only remaining municipal pitch and putt course in the borough, providing affordable and accessible golf for everyone in a beautiful and tranquil space.
“In our opinion, the change of use and the loss of the beautiful green space would represent a significant blow for the area.
“We believe that in recent years the pitch and putt site has been poorly managed by the council and that it has also failed to recognise that the site represents a valuable community asset.”
Kevin said the group feels that a better alternative for the site would be to turn it into a community hub.
This would include a pitch and putt with “extended and reliable” opening times and targeting groups for the elderly, disadvantaged children and people with disabilities. There would also be a cafe and target golf for kids as part of their plans.
He added: “The Friends Group recognises that its vision can only be successfully implemented with the full support of the council and the support and involvement of local residents, groups and organisations.
“However, we believe that the significant number of objectors to the proposed housing development together with an increased recognition of the importance of the local community as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown would make this a viable and sustainable proposition.”
Council leader Damian White said: “As part of the planning process, the application has been open for consultation regarding the plans for the Hall Lane pitch and putt site.
“It is now up to the strategic planning committee to decide, and we cannot offer further comment at this time.”
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