More business approach needed

I READ with interest the Seaford Gazette report “Thousands to be spent on design of golf clubhouse” and councillor Ian White’s comment: “We’ve had an indication from the contractors they would be ready to start work on the new site on October 1”.

His comment should give Seaford council tax payers cause for concern. The purpose of this extra £60,000 is so accurate building cost can be approved but there is no indication in the report of a firm of quantity surveyors acting for the council.

Surely a Conservative council which used to believe in compulsory competitive tendering should offer the building contract out to the market with the quantity surveyor and architect assessing the bids and advising the council.

I addressed written questions to the Town Council under the Freedom of Information Act - answered by the Clerk - which tends to indicate they have not followed a normal commercial development appraisal approach.

A key element is a before and after valuation by specialist firm of golf course and leisure valuers based on outline schemes supported by real market evidence which should have been fed into the design. Initial appraisal of building cost per square metre can be obtained from market evidence of other similar developments. I understand no such valuations took place. If existing use value plus the building cost greatly exceeds the after value then in most cases it’s unlikely to proceed.

This project seems to have been commissioned with little business planning and details of proposed operational lettings which if done wrongly could seriously affect the after value.

Councillor White, in his election campaign video, said the clubhouse needed £200,000 spent on it. Well having spent already in excess of £125,000 that may have been the best option.

He keeps stressing the club makes a profit but unlike commercial tenants who take on full repairing leases of property with outstanding repairs he failed to put money aside from profit into a sinking fund to finance future dilapidations.

So was there any real profit? He is now providing for past financial mismanagement by a so called reserve raising Council Tax year on year.

According to the council report the current design is being carried out in consultation with certain councillors and members of the golf club.

If this was a commercial venture expert input would be sought with wider market evidence and experience.

If the Town Council do not put the building contract out to tender then I feel we have a right to know the final cost and how much will be borrowed from the Public Works loan board and underwritten by Seaford Tax Payers.

Given what RT Hon Eric Pickles MP has said about Councils owning and running golf courses in the past it will be interesting to see if he approves the £1 million plus loan.



Rother Road, Seaford