Residents packed into a council meeting to demand answers on the future of a green belt golf course and nearby woodland.

Dozens of people attended Enfield’s green belt forum on Wednesday (January 15), where a council officer confirmed “sport and leisure” operators had bid for a 25-year lease on Whitewebbs Park golf course.

Enfield Council announced last year it was looking to lease the 18-hole course and some of the surrounding woodland to a commercial partner to combat a fall in revenues.

Mark Bradbury, the council’s director of property and economy, told the meeting the council would not “allow any proposals that involve housing or any other development” on the 241-acre site, which is part of the borough’s green belt.

But he admitted the “marketing literature and early communications” had “not helped with the concerns the public have”.

The original marketing prospectus said the site had capacity for “inert material” – a category that could include building waste. The council said this was a mistake, and the prospectus was amended to remove the reference to inert material.

Mr Bradbury said 18 organisations had so far expressed an interest in the golf course, including “charities, trusts and education bodies, as well as leisure operators”.

Under questioning from members of the public, who asked whether the bidders included football clubs, Mr Bradbury said “sport and leisure” operators had shown an interest, but he could not reveal further details.

Cllr Alessandro Georgiou (Conservative, Cockfosters), said the council had an “appalling record of tendering out leases” and called for a “strengthening of enforcement” in new agreements.

Mr Bradbury replied: “We have underinvested in the property team in the past. We are now investing in the team and giving them new resources and skills.”

He added: “We will ensure that if the lease is not delivering what the council wants, we have the appropriate rights to take it back and take it off them. That is something we have not done enough of in the past.”

Despite Mr Bradbury’s assurances, Cllr Georgiou said he feared the green belt site would eventually be developed.

He said he was concerned some building could be allowed on the site, the council could then remove the lease and the areas that had been built on could be turned into housing.

After the discussion between councillors, forum chairman Cllr Dino Lemonides (Labour, Chase) opened the session to public questions for two minutes – but after an angry response from residents, he agreed to extend it to ten minutes.

One woman questioned why the woodland had been included in the lease, claiming it was not necessary, and asked why the council was not working with the National Trust to improve the woods.

Mr Bradbury said that “may or not be” one of the proposals the council had received.

One man, an accountant, suggested the loss on the golf course, which he understood to be £20,000 in a recent year, was small compared to the council’s budget.

He said: “There is a reasonable café, the course is far better than it was four years ago, we have a good lot of workers there who are well equipped to run the golf course properly, people enjoy walking there, the council has 100 per cent control – what the hell are we doing here?”

Cllr Lemonides said the council would let the man know how much the golf course was losing.

Another resident, Jill Simpson, asked why the council was offering woodland in the lease after it had recently declared a climate emergency and expressed a commitment to biodiversity.

She said: “It should be protected for the people of Enfield, as it was bought for the people of Enfield when the rich decided to sell the land from the few to the many.

“We are meant to be putting much more importance on our natural spaces all over the borough.”

Mr Bradbury said the council had included the woodlands to try to encourage investment in maintaining biodiversity.

The council’s preferred bidder for Whitewebbs Park golf course is expected to be confirmed in April.

Speaking after the meeting, an Enfield Council spokesperson said: “Enfield Council has received 18 expressions of interest from experienced leisure and sports providers, trusts and education providers regarding the future management of Whitewebbs Park Golf Course.

“The current golf facility has been operating at a loss for several years so we are looking at a range of options that may or may not include golf.

“We are committed to ensuring that the valued green space and ancient woodland are protected and that proposals deliver enhanced public access, greater biodiversity, improved visitor facilities, including refreshments and ongoing community engagement. None of the proposals involve clearing the site to create a landfill.

“We are encouraging local residents to share what they would like to see at Whitewebbs with us so that this can inform the decision making process.

“Once the preferred bidder has been announced a public drop-in event will be organised to make sure all interested parties can comment before a decision is made.”

For the latest details and updates on Whitewebbs, go to: