Published: 00:00, 17 July 2003
| Updated: 10:04, 17 July 2003
RESIDENTS of Sandwich Bay Estate have denied being "greedy" in a row over toll charges during the qualifying rounds of the Open Golf.
They say they never intended to open the estate to the public on Monday but were "forced" to after Prince's Golf Club encouraged people to come along to the event for free.
Bill Howie from Prince's said he had to deal with many angry visitors who were faced with a £10 charge to gain access to the golf course through Sandwich Bay Estate.
He described it as an "embarrassment" and said he was disappointed that the directors of Sandwich Bay Estate had decided to introduce the fee.
"There was no need for them to make this charge and I feel they were being greedy," he added.
But a director of Sandwich Bay Estate, speaking exclusively to the East Kent Mercury, said that Prince's knew that spectators would have to pay toll charges and they were annoyed that they were not consulted by Prince's about advertising free entry to spectators to enter the estate free of charge for the qualifying rounds.
"We were shocked when we saw an article in the East Kent Mercury that Prince's were encouraging people to enter the Bay Estate free of charge to watch the qualifying rounds, he added.
"We had not planned to open the estate to the public at all for the entire week of the golf," he added.
The director, who did not want to be identified, added that they decided they would have to bring their contingency plan into operation, which would mean introducing the £10 charge.
"We had £10 tickets printed in March in case we did decide to open the estate for the week and it was certainly not an overnight decision to introduce the charge, " he said.
He said the increase from the normal £5 was not unusual for an event like this because there were extra staffing costs and added that they weren't the only ones raising their prices during the golf.
"We are a non-profit making company and money from our regular tolls goes towards the upkeep of the private roads. Two years ago we spent £40,000 upgrading the one mile section of road in the estate leading to Prince's Golf Club."
The director said it was a shame that nobody from Prince's Golf Club sought permission to make spectator access to the qualifying rounds a free right of way.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, organisers of the Open, expressed disappointment at the Sandwich Bay Estate's decision to introduce the charges.
"We were caught on the hop by this," admitted championship secretary David Hill.
"In addition to the £25,000 contribution we made for the upkeep of the road which borders Royal St George's we also gave £15,000 to the Dover District Council for upgrading of the ancient highway."
The Sandwich Bay Estate director stressed that they had no intention of causing bad feelings or affecting the good name of the R & A or Royal St George's.