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Darlington golf club merger delayed by review
PLANS to merge two neighbouring golf clubs are to be delayed after the decision to press ahead with the proposal was ‘called in’ for scrutiny.
Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet last week agreed to combine the privately-run Blackwell Grange Golf Club and municipal Stressholme Golf Course.
The controversial deal involves the sale of land at Stressholme and could see a future executive housing development on part of the current Blackwell site.
Conservatives on the Labour-run council have asked for the decision to be looked into further and it will be considered by the efficiency and resources scrutiny committee shortly.
It is understood the reasons for the call-in are twofold: questions over the £750,000 sale value of the Stressholme land, which could potentially command a higher premium if sold as a development site and how the merged club will be managed.
The council’s auditors, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, will participate in the scrutiny process.
Earlier this week, Darlington accountant Clive Owen, who lives close to Blackwell Grange, wrote to councillors calling for a six-month review of the proposals.
Councillor Alan Coultas, who signed the call-in papers on behalf of the Conservative group, said: “This had been on our minds for some time.
“We are aware of some of the comments that have arisen from members of the public and I think these considerations should be available to the scrutiny committee, so we can review this decision then come to a view.”
Council leader Bill Dixon has accused the Tories of political posturing and questioned why the call-in decision was taken so late in the process.
He said: “This will not affect the project; it is just annoying that the councillors concerned have had months to call this in.
“None of them have raised any objections or offered alternatives as to how we could make the savings that we need to.
“They seem to have waited until the process has run its course and jumped up at the last minute.”
Councillor Heather Scott, leader of the Conservative group, rejected accusations of posturing, saying that a call-in could only take place once a decision had been made.
She said: “We have to make sure that the council tax payers of Darlington get the best value possible.”
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