A golf club which is set to lose up to £70,000 this year could receive a new lease of life after planning consent was given to build 17 holiday lodges at the site.
Thorney Golf Centre is set for a bumper cash boost after owner Neil Morgan convinced Peterborough city councillors that the lodges will revitalise the club’s finances and bring in £200,000 a year to the local economy.
Planning approval was granted by the council’s planning committee despite opposition from Thorney Parish Council and residents living near the club who fear unacceptable noise and a loss of privacy.
Committee members also refused to be swayed by a recommendation from the council’s planning team that the lodges should be rejected due to the lack of a “robust business plan,” a claim which was frequently denied by an exasperated Mr Morgan who said: “I do not understand what more we can give you. I have to pinch myself slightly. We have told you precisely and exactly what all the figures are.”
The plan was needed, the council said, as the lodges were due to be built in an area with the highest risk of flooding. This could only be accepted if the “benefits clearly outweigh the impacts,” which in this case would be if the holiday homes would bring in enough money to keep the golf club in business.
But Mr Morgan pointed out that he had given the council all the figures he could, including the forecasted £600,000 cash boost from selling the lodges. In turn, this would bring in an additional £117,000 a year of income to the golf club through rent and plot fees, as well as membership and green fees for the golf centre and increased revenue to the restaurant, bar and shop.
He added: “It will be a transformation to the club.”
The centre would have made a loss of £25,000 to £35,000 this year, but this could double due to the hiring of new staff. Mr Morgan, who is also a director at Tallington Lakes, added that lodges at Tydd St Giles and Old Nene Golf Club had proven that this business model could work,
And during the 90 minute debate he continually repeated that “there is no flood risk,” prompting a member of the audience to shout out: “It flooded in 1947 and I have a picture here.”
Mr Morgan responded: “I believe there was about two inches of water.”
Objector Ian Glading, who said he was the closest neighbour to the centre, told the committee that he believed the lodges would be “used for residential properties” instead of just for holidays, as they were being advertised for use 365 days a year.
But councillors were satisfied that Mr Morgan had proven the lodges would make the golf club commercially viable.
Cllr June Bull said she was “totally satisfied,” while Cllr Graham Casey said: “I can see the skeleton of a good business plan and the business model works.”
Cllr Amjad Iqbal added: “I personally think he has given us a substantial case.”
The only committee member to reject the application was Liberal Party member Cllr Bella Saltmarsh.