Published: 10:00, 18 October 2017
There are plans to improve Sandwich Railway Station as new documents warn Kent would otherwise lose out on hosting the Open.
Royal St George’s at Sandwich – the county’s only championship golf course – faces losing its rights to host any future Opens, unless Kent councils agree to pay almost £1.4 million towards improvement works to Sandwich Railway Station in time for the 2020 tournament.
In a document discussed by the South East Local Economic Partnership on September 22, it was reported that Open Championship organisers the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R&A) had confirmed that, “without the transport improvements... Kent will not be invited to host the Open at all, and the area will lose the resultant economic impact”.
The works, estimated to cost £4.29 million, include an extension of Sandwich station’s platforms to cope with the longer trains put on during Open week 2020, and the construction of a second passenger footbridge to accommodate the volume of spectators using the trains.
Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Thanet and Shepway councils have already agreed to make a joint contribution of £100,000 towards the cost of the works.
Kent County Council will contribute £1.375 million, of which £1.025 million will come from projected grant underspends for railway improvement works at Ashford.
The Department for Transport has indicated it will pay £1.504 million towards the works. And the R&A said it will pay £1.418 million.
The report estimates the 2020 Open will attract at least 200,000 spectators to Royal St George’s and “the economic impact is forecast to be in excess of £85m, of which at least £26.8m is forecast to be direct additional spend.
However, critical transport improvements are required at Sandwich station to enable the expected number of spectators to access the Royal St George’s Golf Course when The Open is under way”.
But former Thanet Cllr Ian Driver denounced the deal.
He said: “Suggestions that the station improvements will benefit the local economy are utter nonsense.
“The works are aimed specifically at the mass transportation of day visitors to and from the Open.
“These visitors will not be staying in local hotels, will not be eating or drinking in local bars, cafes and restaurants. But they will be filling the pockets of the R&A and Royal St George Golf Clubs with tens of millions in ticket money.”
He thinks the public money would be better spent on dealing with the housing crisis, or problems in the NHS and education.
However Sandwich Town Council is fully behind the investment describing it as “a good example of public/private partnership, investing for the long term to benefit the local economy and wider community.”
It says it will result in a three-event deal which stands to benefit the local economy by around £300m as well as complement the Vision for Sandwich project to harness the town’s tourism potential and increase capacity to meet growing demand for high speed train services.
A statement from Sandwich Town Council said: “The Open raises Sandwich’s profile at home and abroad, promoting the town and surrounding villages as a tourist destination.
"Hotel and hospitality businesses, and many residents who let out their homes, directly benefit from the event. Sandwich and the surrounding area also benefits year round from golfers visiting to play a current Championship links course.
“STC with DDC and KCC will be working hard over the next two years to ensure we capitalise on the full potential of the event - and there are a number of new hospitality offer initiatives which we are looking at to help achieve that.
"STC is in discussion with the R&A on how 2020 can leave a lasting legacy to benefit the community and businesses, focused on public amenity and youth.
“People who complain about this investment are the same people who would complain if the government didn’t take the initiative to invest, plan strategically, and seize the opportunity of an event like the Open to benefit the longer term.
“It’s exciting to see central government, KCC, and R&A working jointly to harness the potential from this world class international event.”
The R&A said it would not be making a further comment. Royal St George’s Golf Club has not commented.
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