‘To start with a blank canvas is just incredible’

Bognor Regis have unveiled ambitious plans to build and relocate to a brand-new course and clubhouse. General Manager James Maclean, and consultant Phil Grice, reveal all… It’s probably the biggest project a golf club can ever countenance – to up sticks from their historic course and shift lock, stock, and barrel to a new site. But that’s exactly what Bognor Regis are doing right now. Hemmed in at their Downview Road venue, where they’ve played for a century, the club have recently submitted afull planning application for a new layout, along with outline planning for a 480-house residential development on their West Sussex site. Shepherding the project at Bognor is General Manager James Maclean, the current GCMA Manager of the Year. He and the club’s board are being assisted by former GCMA Chairman Phil Grice, who knows all about navigating such a seismic move. He went through the process when leading Royal Norwich’s relocation from their James Braid-designed Hellesdon course to a new, and much admired, facility at Weston Park. So what is behind Bognor Regis’s desire to move, how are they moving through the proposals, and what is to come if their plans are realised? We sat down with James and Phil to find out more… Bognor Regis is a historic course and you’ve been on your current site a long time. What are the reasons for moving? James Maclean: There were several factors but the main one was our financial position. We were down to around 500 playing members and we had just under £500,000 of debt. It was hard to see a way to turn things around so we started looking at the options of selling different parcels of land to raise money. We were also engaged in conversations with local planning officers, who told us of their desire to put a road through part of our golf course that would link a new bypass to our north and a main road to our south. We’re on a very small site - only 97 acres - and we’ve got no room to expand so losing part of the site for a road was never an option. It was at this stage that we first discussed the potential for a full site relocation, with our current site being sold for residential development to pay for the cost of building the new course and facilities.We started these conversations in 2014 and it took us three years to work these up to proper proposals that could be presented to our members. These proposals were presented to members at an EGM in 2017. We proposed working with a company called Hallam Land Management as a land promoter, who, as well as offering planning expertise, would underpin the financial risk throughout the project for the club. 87% voted in favour of entering into the Promotion Agreement, which was very overwhelming. We only needed a simple majority, but the board at the time said we would only proceed if we got at least...
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