Gale`s View - 3rd August 2011
I have, hitherto, regarded golf as a game invented for the purpose of spoiling an otherwise enjoyable walk with a dog. I have never managed to understand the urge that drives the Japanese, for example, to travel halfway around the world for the dubious pleasure of rising at six o`clock in the morning to tee-off in the semi-darkness on a wet and windy November morning at St. Andrews in Scotland. (Oh yes they do – I have seen it for myself!)
However, with two sons who from time to time beat a little white ball around sandpits and with, seemingly, most of the population of the United Kingdom descending on Sandwich for the recent Open Championship I admit that I watched the winning game with interest almost bordering on excitement.
We are blessed, in East Kent, with many good and well-used golf courses and, at Greensole, an excellent (I am told!) golf driving range. There is clearly good business and pleasure to be had from this modest pastime.
Which is why I find it quite extraordinary that Thanet`s socialist-dominated planning committee, on behalf of our coalition Council (yes, it is) should have found it necessary to reject a planning application for the creation of a golf academy on land zoned for business use at Manston. This act, which I regard as economic vandalism, was perpetrated on the premise that the land is designated for business” rather than leisure” use.
Setting aside the government`s guidance that planning consents should be granted unless there is a very good reason (conservation, transport infrastructure, density, for example) for turning a planning application down this crass decision does two things.
First, it sends out a signal that Thanet is not investment-friendly and that we do not really want new jobs to be created and, second, it indicates very clearly the malaise from which Thanet suffered when the Labour party was last in control of the Council: Thanet, incredibly for a seaside resort district, does not apparently regard leisure” as business.
I have a feeling that those who invested squillions of pounds in the running and servicing of the Open Golf Championship might just feel that golf and, indeed, other sporting activities, can be very big business indeed. I also think that if the Turner Contemporary is to maintain its very considerable initial success then the venture will require a hard-nosed business edge. And was not part of the reason behind the Turner that it would generate new employment , through leisure and tourism, for Thanet?
Were there to be an army of entrepreneurs beating a path to Thanet to invest in new businesses on land designated as business parks then one might, just, understand why it could be better for a golf academy to be located on an alternative out-of-town site. Given the fact that this flood of inward investment is not yet even a trickle and the China Gateway” plot for example , over which there was such a brouhaha, shows no sign of hyper-activity, it has to make sense to embrace with open arms those that really do wish to create jobs. (As an aside, I wonder if Thanet`s planning committee regards Manston Airport as business” or leisure”!)
I have not been approached by the potential golfing investor. I do not know his name and I have no way of knowing whether or not he will appeal against the Planning Committee`s decision. I hope, though, that he does and I hope that he succeeds. I shall not be attending a golf academy myself but I know many that would wish to and they deserve to have the chance to do so.
It is simply not good enough to bleat about unemployment and to will the ends unless you are ready, also, to take the sometimes hard political decisions to will the means. Thanet has no money and it therefore needs to put out the welcome mat to those that have and to declare that Thanet is open for business of all kinds – including, particularly, leisure.