Golf course faces threat of closure

Gilbert Lloyd, pictured in a golf buggy with his dog Ruby, who is trying to keep Elemore Golf Club from closing due to lack of funding.
Gilbert Lloyd, pictured in a golf buggy with his dog Ruby, who is trying to keep Elemore Golf Club from closing due to lack of funding.
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GOLFERS will be left without a public course to play on in Sunderland if council funding is taken away.

That’s the view of Gilbert Lloyd, whose Golf Course Management Limited runs Elemore Golf Club, in Easington Lane, as it faces an uncertain future.

Mr Lloyd says plans to withdraw £75,000 in funding will mean the course has to close, which he says will also see nine people lose their jobs.

The only other public course in the city, Ryhope Golf Club, was closed some years ago.

Mr Lloyd, who has been a director at the club for the past 13 years, said: “The council have said they are going through a procurement process at the minute.

“This is the only paying public golf course in Sunderland.

“We only employ locally and many of the staff have been here a long time.

“If it was a large some of money then you would think ‘they have a point’, but it’s not a big part of their sport budget.”

Mr Lloyd also said that the closure of the golf course could lead to problems with vandalism.

“Mark my words, there’ll be an accident here if it closes,” he said.

“There will be horses on here and hazardous waste, which we’ve had in the past.”

Members of the club, however, say they are in talks with the council to put together their own business plan to run Elemore, which would secure the future of the club.

Member Peter Carr said: “At the moment the golf course has been offered to us to try and keep it open.

“Our members are agreed that we should put together a business plan to make Elemore more of a community golf club and get the community involved.

“The members are actually quite positive about the future of the golf club.”

Mr Lloyd has said that he will back the members’ proposals and provide support if he can.

A public meeting on the future of Elemore will be held at its clubhouse on Tuesday, November 29, at 7pm, with drinks and refreshments provided – and Mr Lloyd said there will also be a free Christmas round of golf for those who attend.

Coun Mel Speding, cabinet secretary at Sunderland City Council, explained the decision to stop funding.

He said: “The council doesn’t have a provision in its budget to subsidise the golf course and never has done.

“As part of the original agreement which commenced in 1997 the council received an annual income from the current course operator GCML (Golf Course Management Limited) in return for operating the course.

“In recent years, due to the worldwide economic downturn and national decline in golf, which means that supply currently exceeds demand, the council has been in a position to waive this and put temporary arrangements in place to continue operating the course while it considered options for its future.

“This is simply not sustainable at a time when the council has seen a £58million reduction in its own budget and faces further reductions.

“For this reason, over the summer, we advertised nationally the opportunity to run the golf course at nil cost to the council.

“Regrettably we didn’t receive bids from any golf course operators, including the current operators GCML, who were able to fulfil this criteria.

“The council has now approached the club to ascertain their level of interest and capacity to operate the golf club at no cost to the council.

“The club is currently considering this and we will be clearer by the middle of November on the next steps.”

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