One of Edinburgh’s top golf clubs could be turned into a retirement village as part of a rescue plan after running into financial difficulties.
Members at Prestonfield Golf Club are facing the possibility of losing part of their course in the club’s centenary year due to the situation over a loan and ongoing losses.
A company called Inspired Villages has tabled an offer subject to planning permission for a prime chunk of land overlooking Arthur’s Seat for a luxury retirement complex.
The offer involves the first, second and 18th holes on the Capital course, as well as the clubhouse, a separate cottage house and the car park.
A new clubhouse would be built elsewhere on the course, which would be re-designed to accommodate three new holes.
Members were informed of the proposal at an annual general meeting last week, when some people walked out in anger - and now an extraordinary general meeting has been called for March 17th.
“We’ve got committees looking into various options and those will be presented to members beforehand,” said club secretary Gareth Pugh in confirming that crunch meeting.
The Evening News understands that the club’s council took the decision to look at the possibility of selling off some land after being refused a bank loan to help ease finances.
“It would have left the club in a very strong position financially,” said one member of the proposal by Inspired Villages, a London-based company which was launched in 2017 and plans to have 50 schemes in the UK in the next 10 years.
“However, some members got in a bit of a tizzy about the whole thing due to it being put to us members that there were no other options.
“The council aren’t blameless as they never investigated the other options properly, certainly not as much as the Inspired Villages proposal.”
It is understood the club has £300,000 of a £1 million pound loan to pay off, with another option on the table being to sell just the cottage house. That apparently would pay off the remainder off the loan and leave £100,000 in the pot.
“You need a good council to be strong and sometimes saying ‘no we can’t afford to do that this year’,” added the member. “The members were frustrated as the council could have made cuts from elsewhere.
“There’s been a lack of good business acumen on our council over the past few years, but I believe this has been rectified over the past few days and some of the rumours are getting blown out of proportion.”
Focus on junior members
Prestonfield is the closest golf club to the city centre and markets itself as “Golf in the heart of the city of Edinburgh”.
It was hailed as showing the way forward for Scottish golf clubs in terms of its work with junior members around six years ago.
Through the success of a ClubGolf coaching initiative, the club made the shortlist for the RBS Junior Club of the Year in 2014, with Liz Taylor winning ClubGolf Volunteer of the Year for leading that drive to inject young blood.
Neal Dale, development director at Inspired Villages, said: “Inspired Villages is focused on creating communities that allow people to live healthy, independent lives for longer. We have had very preliminary discussions with Prestonfield Golf Club about the principle of working together on a project that will assist the sustainability of the golf club operation for the long-term, as well as allow us to create homes that will help address the severe shortage of age-appropriate housing in the area.
"Due to the very early stage of discussions we do not have any indicative designs to share as these would ultimately be developed with input from Prestonfield Golf Club and its members.
"Furthermore, working with Inspired Villages is only one of several options under consideration by the club and which will be debated at their forthcoming EGM."