Council leaders are being urged to reject a bid from the one firm interested in taking over a loss-making Bath golf course and pause the process.
The concession for the Approach in High Common was put out to tender but despite approaches to “more than five” golf operators none submitted a bid.
Users and neighbouring residents fear park owner Bath and North East Somerset Council will hand the 20-year contract to the one company that placed a bid, rumoured to be for disc golf.
Lansdown ward councillors Lucy Hodge and Mark Elliott said the community could not accept a “non-traditional golf-derived sport” – and they said they are confident they have been heard ahead of the cabinet meeting on February 11.
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Meanwhile, council leader Dine Romero has sought to dispel “rumours and misinformation” about the future of High Common and said the beautiful site was not under threat.
Nick Gent was among the residents to write to councillors concerned about the park.
He said: “The rational and sensitive thing to do when there is a major decision affecting so directly the lives of local residents in the middle of the pandemic is to pause.
“This is an open air facility that is much used by many citizens. I encourage you to not accept the bid and to pause and take stock.
“The proposal has caused a lot of ill-feeling in the local area.”
Park Street resident Natalie Moran added: “This space is important to people who live in local flats locally as well as golfers. Any decision about its future must be stopped – it should not be rushed through by the council.”
Others have criticised the lack of consultation – especially when the council consulted on the future of Entry Hill, another Bath golf course – and a lack of transparency, with claims the nature of the bid could be revealed within the constraints of commercial sensitivity.
The Approach currently offers an 18-hole and a 12-hole course.
Emilio Pimentel-Reid, who chairs the Friends of the High Common, said: “We understand the council would like to encourage more people to use the High Common but they don’t bother to ask us how we would like to use the park. This doesn’t make sense.
“Golfers who are members of the park community are about to be chucked off the Approach golf course after 60 years. Most people would regard a golf course being replaced by something other than a golf course as a material change of use.”
He called for a pause in the process.
More than 3,500 people have now signed a petition urging the council to keep the Approach open. It costs the authority £30,000 a year.
On February 6 Cllr Hodge broke ranks with her Liberal Democrat colleagues to speak up residents who “feel misled by promises that golf would be retained”.
In a joint statement with Cllr Elliott on February 9, she said: “We have made strong representations to cabinet members to ensure they are aware of the strength of local feeling regarding the High Common.
“They are completely clear that neither we as ward councillors, nor local residents, can accept non-traditional golf-derived sports on this special site.
“One of the options available to the cabinet, as outlined in the decision paper, is not to proceed with the preferred bidder process. This is the option we have urged them to consider and we are confident that we have been heard.”
In a tweet at the weekend, Cllr Romero said: “We are aware of lots of rumour, misinformation and speculation about the future of the High Common, specifically the Approach golf course. This beautiful place is not under threat.
“Given the procurement process it has not been possible to give as much information as we would have liked. No decision has been made.
“Cabinet has the option of appointing a bidder, or can choose not to proceed with the process.
“We can assure you, whatever the outcome of the discussion at cabinet on Thursday, this is not the end of the debate, there will be no change to the provision in this area without a full, meaningful consultation with residents.”
The cabinet meeting will also decide the fate of the nine-hole Entry Hill golf course, which costs the council £70,000 a year.
Five companies have submitted bids to take it over.
A consultation last year showed 78 per cent of respondents wanted it to become a mountain bike park.
Cabinet members will have the option of appointing the highest scoring bidders or choosing not to proceed with the process. Once a preferred bidder is appointed they will engage with the local community on their proposals before final contracts are signed.
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