Delay for golf course extension due to concerns about horse safety

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An application to extend a golf course has been deferred, with planning officers saddled with a lot of questions about horses.

The plan to build a six-hole practice course at the West Sussex Golf Club, in Wiggonholt, was considered by Horsham District Council’s planning committee south on Tuesday (June 18).

Public bridleways run along the boundary of the triangle of land intended for the new course and it is close to an equestrian yard, which provides training for horses and riders.

While officers had no problems with the application and had recommended it for approval, councillors were unhappy with the lack of solid information they were given about public safety and the potential impact on the horses.

The council received 19 letters of objection, raising concerns about those issues, and one speaker gave a dire warning about the danger of stray golf balls.

He said: “Approving this application would result in a high risk of injury or death of a person or horse.”

Members were told that, if riders did not feel safe, they would stop using the equestrian yard, meaning it could be forced to close.

But the golf club insisted it had a ‘harmonious relationship’ with riders for decades, marred only by ‘rare but inevitable hiccups’ over the years.

Roger Brown, former club captain, said a substantial amount of money had been raised to buy the land for the practice course.

Explaining that golf needed to be more accessible to families if the sport was to survive and flourish, he added: “The short course fills a very important gap in the pathway for both juniors and adults as they progress from novices to playing a recognisable serious course.”

Officers were accused of over-simplifying information from the British Horse Society which explained how a horse would react when spooked by a noise.

With councillors acknowledging that they knew nothing about horses, Philip Circus (Con, West Chiltington, Thakeham & Ashington) said it would have been useful to have someone from the society at the meeting to give an expert opinion.

The application will be returned to the committee at a later date.