Consent for an extension to the golf centre at the historic links course in Carnoustie was granted at a fiery council meeting.
Carnoustie Golf Links Management Committee’s £4.75m project has divided the town with concerns being raised at the impact the new bar and restaurant would have on other businesses in the town.
Addressing the full meeting of Angus Council, Links Management Committee chair Pat Sawers said the extension was “much needed” to retain Carnoustie’s status with the R&A, which organises The Open.
She said: “There are 10 courses on the Open Championship rota and Carnoustie is the only one which doesn’t provide the type of facilities we are proposing, namely a first class bar and restaurant and state-of-the-art warmup facilities.
“The R&A have an expectation that all Championship venues continue to build on and improve what they offer.
“As we are currently behind all the other venues, Carnoustie can not afford to stand still.”
The Links Committee requires the permission of Angus Council, which own the links, for any alterations to its facilities and also if it plans to borrow sums of more than £200,000. It plans to take out a loan of £2.95m for the development, which would not be secured against any council asset.
It simply can not be right that the council will approve the use of a community asset to unfairly undermine our businesses.
Bill Thompson, captain of Carnoustie Golf Course, told the council that the plans could put the “financial stability” of Carnoustie links at risk.
He said: “This project will use of all of the £1.8m cash reserves, followed by an aggressive loan repayment schedule that will result in the majority of future annual profits being put towards this project.”
However, Alan Creevy, a director of consultants CDLH, said his “worst case scenario” analysis still found the improved centre would generate a surplus.
A spokeswoman on behalf of a group of number of pubs, hotels and restaurants in Carnoustie said the project would have a detrimental impact on their businesses.
She said: “It simply can not be right that the council will approve the use of a community asset to unfairly undermine our businesses.”
Carnoustie councillor Bill Bowles, who recently stood down from the Links Management Committee, proposed two amendments, both of which were ruled incompetent by Provost Helen Oswald after she took legal advice from the council’s head of law Sheona Hunter.
Mrs Oswald told Mr Bowles that issues regarding the amount of consultation undertaken, how money is spent and whether golfers would pay higher fees were all matters for the Links Management Committee.
Mr Bowles replied: “I am disappointed. I think it’s wrong for you to sit in the chair as a member of the Golf Links Management Committee to make a judgement on the competency of motions.”
Fellow Carnoustie councillor Brian Boyd added that he was “bitterly disappointed”.
Another attempt at an amendment was made by Brechin councillor Bob Myles who asked that the decision be deferred to see agreement could be achieved by golf clubs and other businesses in Carnoustie. This too was ruled incompetent by Mrs Oswald.
Seconding the Provost’s motion that approval by granted, Arbroath councillor Alex King said there was a “significant risk” the Open wouldn’t return to Carnoustie after the 2018 Championship if the facilities weren’t enhanced.
He added: “If the demand for facilities at Open venues is escalating and we do nothing all we are doing is saying to the R&A that Carnoustie doesn’t want the Open any more because we’re not prepared to improve the facilities.”