The much-loved course, which had been threatened with closure, is now looking ahead to brighter days as a preferred bidder is selected to take over the venue
Cleeve Hill has been saved from closure. Tewkesbury Borough Council and Cleeve Common Trust have announced Cotswold Hub Co. as the preferred bidder to transform the venue.
In a statement announcing that head of terms have been agreed, the council said the company had been selected due to its “remarkable proposal, which promises to deliver a place ‘where cyclists, walkers, golfers, riders, wildlife enthusiasts and historians all share a common interest… the unique Cleeve Hill’.”
The Old Tom Morris-designed layout, which is a favourite of many because of its quirky holes and stunning views of the surrounding Gloucestershire countryside, had been set to close at the end of March after the current tenant gave notice of intention not to continue their lease.
An independent report commissioned on the future of golf at the site concluded it wasn’t financially sustainable without significant investment and broadening the offer to the wider community.
But with holes carved out of a quarry, Cleeve Hill rides high in ranking lists and is beloved by the sport’s purists.
The news it was under threat sparked a social media storm and the launch of a concerted campaign to save it. Last October, the council’s executive 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.
The authority recognised that “there is still a significant appetite for golf on the hill” and bids were invited to find a preferred tenant.
Now Cotswold Hub Co., founded by Sam Foyle and Nick Hovey, have agreed a 125-year lease for the Cleeve Hill Golf Club premises and with Cleeve Common for a licence to play golf. The lease and licence will begin on April 1.
Their plans to create a ‘first-class golf class golf club include a new restaurant, cafe, accommodation lodges and a “shared space where people can meet and work”.
Councillor Rob Bird, Tewkesbury Borough Council leader, said: “This fantastic announcement is the direct result of consistently pursuing a very clear objective, to enable golf to continue on this completely unique course if at all financially viable, and to achieve improvement to the site itself and better community facilities.
“This excellent Cotswold Hub Co proposal more than delivers on our four crucial criteria, of enhancing the space for use by the community, protecting the local environment, protecting public access and being commercially sustainable.”
Hovey, who is also managing director of MASHIE Golf, said: “Cleeve Hill is an iconic golf course and to play a part in ensuring its legacy continues is very special. We are keen to provide continuity for Cleeve’s existing golf members whilst allowing the club to thrive by providing better facilities, improving the standard of the course and encouraging membership growth from the local area, which will be the heartbeat of the club for years to come.”
Foyle added: “We are incredibly excited about the opportunity and future of Cleeve Hill. We have brought together the best-in-class local team, from architects, hospitality, through to golf management. All are deeply passionate about delivering the facilities and hub that Cleeve Hill rightly deserves.”
Phil Robson, chair of Cleeve Common Trust, said: “We are thrilled that we have been able to retain the playing of golf on Cleeve Common.
“The course is considered to be of historical value within the world of golf, but it is also part of the history of the common. The plans that the Cotswold Hub Co. have developed will provide a step change in the facilities that are available to all users of the common in an environmentally sympathetic way.
“For hundreds of years the common has not only provided valuable pasture for the grazing of animals but it has been an invaluable place for recreation, which has proved its importance to the local community during the pandemic. The Cotswold Hub Co. facility will massively enhance the visitor experience and will become a destination in its own right. We look forward to a close working partnership with The Cotswold Hub Co.”
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