Campaigners are celebrating after Tewkesbury Borough Council's executive paved the way for golf to continue at Cleeve Hill. But the historic layout is not out of the woods yet

The first hurdle in the race to save Cleeve Hill has been successfully jumped – but there’s still work to do to secure the historic course’s future.

Tewkesbury Borough Council’s executive have agreed to allow the authority’s finance chief to agree heads of terms for a long lease of up to 125 years for the clubhouse.

But that is subject to a number of conditions, including that any new tenant enters into a “licence with Cleeve Common Trust to play golf on Cleeve Common, upon terms reasonably satisfactory to the council”.

NCG reported how the Gloucestershire course, designed by Old Tom Morris and a feature of ranking lists, was set to close at the end of March next year.

The news sparked a social media storm and the launch of a concerted campaign to save the layout.

In outlining reasons for recommendation, a committee report to the executive meeting from the Head of Finance and Asset Management said: “It has been recognised that there is still a significant appetite for golf on the hill, therefore, if another party is willing to take on the financial liability to conserve golf, the Council would support this aspiration by offering a lease of the clubhouse.

“This would be subject to any new tenant agreeing to the Council’s conditions in the lease aimed at ensuring protection of the natural environment, facilitates and enhances community use, the project is commercially sustainable and the use of the facilities are protected for the future use of the general public.”

The report revealed that Cleeve Hill’s current tenant, The Share Club, utilised a break clause in a 25-year lease and gave notice to terminate on March 31, 2021.

Authority officers then served notice on Cleeve Common Trust to terminate the licence to play golf on that date – ending any future financial liability in connection with the provision of golf on the hill.

Cleeve Hill

The report adds that several parties have since expressed an interest in taking on a new lease of the clubhouse and states that “initial discussions…have proven to be positive with those parties communicating a vision that would be in line with both the Council’s and the Trust’s own vision for the use of the common and facilities.

“Discussions with the Trust have also occurred, and they have indicated a willingness to enter into a licence agreement with a third party.”

Any licence with Cleeve Common Trust would be dependant on a number of compulsory terms, which include the continuation of public pay and play.

And, on the clubhouse, which has been identified by campaigners as in need of significant investment, the report states: “The lessee must be committed to investing in the refurbishment of the current building, or demolition and rebuild of a replacement facility, subject to planning consent.”

Crucially, it adds that if a new tenant “cannot be ascertained for the clubhouse that supports the continuation of golf on the hill along with other community activities, Officers will seek alternative use lessees that can support the Council’s community aims and invest in the building.

“Should no viable solution be found, Officers will continue with the current agreed route which includes the presentation of a further report to Members to agree the best future use of the asset and will commence demolition of the clubhouse as previously approved.”

Reacting to the decision, Jonathan Mercer, of the Save Cleeve Hill Golf Course campaign, wrote: “This group looks forward to supporting that process in any and every way possible.

“It’s all you giving your support who have made a huge difference in getting things to this excellent point.

“It’s not over yet – not until ink is drying on paper – but this is a brilliant milestone.”

Listen to The NCG Podcast on The Battle to Save Cleeve Hill

What do you make of the current developments? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.

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Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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