Published: 16:31, 06 June 2019
| Updated: 16:41, 06 June 2019
Ten executive homes are to be built on a nine-hole golf course in the hope it will secure the future of a popular leisure attraction.
Ashford Borough Council’s planning committee approved plans for “high-quality” properties at Great Chart Golf and Leisure last night, with the development said to be aimed at “captains of industry”.
A scheme consisting of seven homes on the site off Bears Lane was granted planning permission back in 2017, but owners Grant and John Kay returned with a revised proposal after discovering the initial project had “saleability issues”.
Facilities at Great Chart Golf and Leisure including paintball, archery and a driving range closed to the public in April due to “unforeseen circumstances”, with a notice placed on the site’s gates adding: “We hope to be opening again soon".
Council documents shows the development is vital to improving facilities – including the driving range and cafeteria – as the business faces “severe financial difficulty”.
It adds: “The upkeep of the golf course became impossible to fund and, as a result, its quality and standard has deteriorated – which has affected membership.
“The poor trading and current debt levels and arrears are not sustainable and restricts the ability of either business (Ashford Golf Complex and Great Chart Leisure) both run by the Kay brothers, to raise any further capital.
“The golf course needs further investment to enable the addition of new activities to maintain and improve the leisure aspect of the site – including the provision of a crazy golf and an adventure golf facility.”
Officers also pointed out there are more than 10 other golf courses in the area, and that the scheme would help to provide a wider range of house types in the borough.
Following the planning approval, John Kay said he now hopes to sell off the golf course land to allow a developer to build the homes.
He did not confirm when the site's other attractions including paintball would reopen when asked by KentOnline today.
At last night's meeting, Cllr Gerry Clarkson (Con) said: “It was a small nine-hole golf course, but was very under-used and almost not used at all.
“Even the golfing fraternity and organising body for golf have indicated there are ample golfing facilities in the vicinity, and they are not fussed at all about losing this amenity.”
Councillors were also quick to emphasise the scheme would contribute £500,000 towards off-site affordable housing.
Cllr Larry Krause (Con) added: “I’d like to point out that it is worth a lot of money in affordable housing to this borough, and everyone in this room and others who aren’t know just how much we need affordable housing.”
Questions about whether the project would set a precedent for building in the countryside were raised by Cllr Neil Shorter (Con), but senior planning officer Oliver Peel said he had no concerns about it “in any way, shape or form”.
The plans were approved by 13 votes to two, although scale and appearance still needs to be approved by the council as the application was in outline form.
The Kays were fined last year for allowing a number of hauliers to dump waste at the attraction in exchange for payment.