Golf 'ruining our green and pleasant land'

Patrick Sawyerin Golf

The spread of golf courses threatens Britain's traditional landscapes, a report from the leading conservation authority will warn this week. The sport's growing popularity has led to dozens of important parks being turned into 18-hole courses, leading to what English Heritage claims is "irreversible damage to the historic environment".

The warning comes as the organisation prepares to launch the first comprehensive register of the country's neglected historic treasures this week. Its "Heritage at Risk" report will identify listed buildings, monuments, churches, battlefields and even shipwrecks that it believes are in jeopardy, and discuss what can be done to preserve them. The survey, the first document of its kind to include parks, gardens and landscapes, will warn that golf courses are frequently being imposed on the landscape in an "alien and insensitive" way.

English Heritage found that:· 116 historically important parks in the South East alone have been converted into golf courses since the 1980s· Golf course developments are damaging scheduled monuments, archaeological remains and the setting of listed buildings· The gardens and landscape of stately homes and country houses are particularly at risk. The warning comes amid the row over a plan by the American billionaire Donald Trump to build a £1 billion golf resort on one of the most unspoilt stretches of Scottish coastline. This is the subject of a planning inquiry.

English Heritage says that some settings can never be suited to the intensive building and landscaping necessary to build fairways, tees, bunkers and clubhouses.Among the examples given is Rudding Park, near Harrogate. The park and gardens were created in 1788, when Lord Loughborough commissioned Humphry Repton to improve the grounds around his house.It is now covered by an 18 hole course, a floodlit driving range, practice holes, holiday homes and camping pitches. A 19th-century walled garden was destroyed to make way for chalets. "More and more facilities have been added to what is a registered historic park," said English Heritage's senior landscape adviser, Jenifer White. "It's a case of over-intensive development." The organisation has compiled a separate report, "Golf in Historic Parks and Landscapes", which recognises that golf is one of Britain's most popular participation sports and sets out ways new courses can be built with minimum damage to their surroundings, including guidelines for architects and developers. These include minimising earth movement, designing bunkers, signs and paths to have as little impact as possible, while conserving trees and restoring water features.

Rudding Park is now covered by an 18-hole course, a floodlit driving range, practice holes, holiday homes and camping pitches. English Heritage also criticises the first of two golf courses at 18th-century Brocket Hall, in Hertfordshire, as "an alien landscape" compared with the later course, designed by Donald Steel, which "weaves its way through woodland and integrates with the historic design" of the building. But Peter Banks, managing director of Rudding Park, said parks and gardens had to balance conservation with raising money to pay for it through commercial development." English Heritage has praised the landscaping of our 18-hole course," he said. "Heritage assets don't maintain themselves. We employ 15 men to look after the park grounds and we have to raise the revenue for them to do that."

"Heritage at Risk", to be published today, includes an assessment of all 19,711 of the country's scheduled monuments, all 1,595 registered historic parks, gardens and landscapes, all 43 registered battlefields and all 45 protected shipwrecks. Among the sites in greatest peril is Birkrigg stone circle in Cumbria, which dates from between 1700 and 1400BC. Known as the Druid's Circle, it overlooks Morecambe Bay. The 31 stones are under threat from encroaching bracken and paint-spraying vandals. Also at risk is the Salcombe Cannon Site in Devon, where a shipwreck yielded a treasure trove of gold coins now held at the British Museum. Last year the site was severely damaged by a fishing vessel. Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: "If we don't act, these things won't be here for our grandchildren."

Article from The Telegraph

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