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Huge blaze at golf club complex

The scene at the height of the fire. Picture: KM photographer PAUL DENNIS
The scene at the height of the fire. Picture: KM photographer PAUL DENNIS

A FIRE has extensively damaged a three-storey golf club complex in the county.

At its height more than 50 firefighters tackled the blaze at Chart Hills Golf Club in Biddenden, near Ashford, which spread quickly through the building and was lighting up the night sky above the village.

Club officials say the blaze badly damaged about two-thirds of the main building.

Fire crews from Maidstone, Ashford, Medway and Sittingbourne were sent to the scene. Water from lakes in the grounds was used to fight the flames.

Diners at a function at the venue filed out when the fire alarm sounded. Ambulances were called but there were no injuries.

Senior Divisional Officer Steve Griffiths said: "It was a difficult fire. It spread very quickly. We stopped it and have saved about a third of the building. However, there is significant damage caused by both the fire and the firefighting.

"We will be working closely with the police as daylight breaks to establish a cause."

Emergency services were at the golf club all night. An investigation by Kent Police and Kent Fire and Rescue Service is now underway.

Club officials have vowed to re-open the course by the weekend and are hopeful that Chart Hills will fulfil its obligation to host its European Tour qualifying school event on Saturday.

David Walls, director of sales and marketing for Leaderboard Golf, owners of Chart Hills, said: “We are waiting to get confirmation from the risk assessor but we are keen to have the golf course re-opened for the European Tour event at the weekend.”

As the blaze broke out scores golf society members were evacuated from the building, home of the Ladies’ English Open.

Mr Walls said: “The fire alarms went off just before 8pm last night when we had the best part of 60 to 80 people in the clubhouse. Everyone was evacuated safely and calmly.”

Key areas of the golf club, including the professional’s shop, locker rooms and lounge, were unaffected by the blaze.

Ten engines from across Kent were called to the scene, but the fire was doused before it reached the club’s key operating facilities. Mr Walls, 44, stressed that he was keen to get Chart Hills fully functional within days.

He said: “Providing we get clearance from the relevant authorities, we will get back down to business as soon as possible.

“Golfers booked in today at Chart Hills have been redirected to our sister club in East Sussex, Dale Hill, or other courses in the area who have the room, but we are hoping to have the course up and running again immediately.”

The Chart Hills course was designed by Nick Faldo and measures 7,119 yards from the championship tees. The golf club was founded in 1993.

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