SOUTH Winchester Golf Club has been sold to a housing company, sparking fears that it will be developed.

The golf club has told members via email that the 18-hole course is being sold to Bloor Homes.

The Chronicle reported recently that surveyors were working at the course near Pitt.

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Contractors at South Winchester Golf Course

Surveying contractors at South Winchester Golf Course last month

The golf course has been in the spotlight with the controversy surrounding the nearby Royaldown scheme for a 5,000-home new town on land between Oliver's Battery and Hursley.

The course was previously farmland until the course opened in the early 1990s. It has been included for several years in the SHLAA register, the wish list of potential development sites that has to be compiled by local authorities.

The city council has recently finished consulting on its new local plans which will guide development in the district over the next 20 years.

James Batho, the Liberal Democrat candidate in the city council election on May 6 for the Badger Farm and Oliver's Battery ward, said today: "We fought off badly thought through developments for Pitt Vale and Texas Field, we’re fighting Royaldown and we’ll fight this off too."

James Batho at South Winchester Golf Course

James Batho at South Winchester Golf Course

Mr Batho added: "There simply isn’t the infrastructure to support this kind of development and the extra traffic it would generate – on Romsey Road or at Pitt Roundabout.

"I can understand local people’s concerns when the sale is to a major Conservative Party donor who has just been given the recent go ahead to build 1,000 homes on a golf course in Basingstoke by the Conservative council there – but, unlike the site in Basingstoke, this site hasn’t been given permission in the local plan – and I will work to make sure it never is.

"There are a lot of houses that already have planning permission and much better sites for extra housing elsewhere in the city, such as Sir John Moore Barracks on Andover Road", which is set to close by 2024.

Mr Batho points out that Bloor Homes is controlled by a major donor to the Conservative Party, John Bloor.

Other politicians also criticised the plans this evening.

Steve Brine MP said: “There is no evidence that a significant increase in housing numbers is required over and above the existing local plan. The golf course is outside the development boundary of Winchester, forms part of a valued landscape and provides an important facility for residents. Crown Golf will take a deserved reputation hit for this cynical move and it explains why they’ve been so sluggish to get back to me when I reached out to them recently. Not impressed.”

County councillor Jan Warwick, who lives in Hursley, said: “Local residents will be very concerned about this latest development following the widespread survey works and the announcement of this sale. A significant development proposal on this site would be considered strategic growth under planning rules and would therefore need to be included in Winchester City Council’s local plan.Many of us have already sent a strong message to Winchester City Council by responding to their local plan consultation. We must protect our green fields and settlement gaps and I will continue to do everything in my power to stop development here”.

David Killeen, chairman of Hursley Parish Council, said: "As chair of Hursley Parish Council and member of the Save South Winchester (SSW) team, I was very concerned that Crown Golf had sold out to Bloor Homes.

"The course has been in the SHELAA for some time and the timing of this is very worrying. There are many areas for housing already identified by SSW, CPRE and Winchester City Council without removing this beautiful amenity space. The SSW team supported by 6,000 members of the public will be reviewing this closely and fighting to keep this space open."

Outline planning permission was granted last year for 1,000 homes on Basingstoke Golf Club following sale of the club to Bloor Homes.

The email from Roger Tomey, general manager, said: "I hope this email finds you well and enjoying the return to golf during what must be one of the driest springs on record.

"You will no doubt be aware from our recent members communication on 25th March 2021, there has been some interest in the land at South Winchester, in relation to the Winchester City Council local plan. As I made clear in my previous note, South Winchester golf course is subject to a deed of covenant in favour of the members, ensuring it remains as a golf club until at least 2026. This prohibits any development of the site and ensures it remains as an operational golf club throughout the term of the covenant.

"Despite this covenant against development, the SHLAA process being undertaken by Winchester City Council has heightened speculative interest in South Winchester, as well as several other parcels of land under consideration within the local plan. This has led to numerous approaches with a view to purchase the freehold of the club. I can confirm that Crown Golf have agreed terms to sell the freehold of the Club to Bloor Homes. If the agreement is completed, the club will be leased back to Crown Golf initially for the period of the covenant, which may be extended if the land is not taken forward within the Winchester City Council local housing plan. This means that the golf club remains secure for at least the next five years and there will be no change to how we operate the Club.

"We are currently busy preparing the Clubhouse for re-opening, with the bar undergoing redecoration and our plans to create a new welcome area and extend the club’s hospitality space are well underway. This new lounge area overlooking the Lake and fountain will increase the space for members in the Clubhouse when restrictions lift, as this has previously been tight. We are also making some additions to the patio area to make outdoor dining a more enjoyable experience.

"Our primary focus remains solely on running the best golf club possible and that will not change. In addition to the improvements to the Clubhouse we are also investing in the irrigation system, replacing the main pump sets, which we expect to be installed in the next month. This is over and above the new sprinkler units installed in March, which together will provide better watering solutions for the tees and greens.

"Naturally you may have some questions, which I am happy to address over the coming weeks, I will also organise a Members forum with Crown Golf C.E.O. Stephen Towers when restrictions allow and we have pertinent information to share.

"Most importantly our focus will continue to be on making membership at the club enjoyable for all and we look forward to a great golfing season ahead."

South Winchester Golf Club. Photo: Google

South Winchester Golf Club. Photo: Google