Residents and some local elected officials close to two golf clubs that have closed in recent years are campaigning for green spaces not to be converted into housing.
The actions highlight the risk that closing golf courses could end up being concreted over, which has seen a growing trend in recent years.
Leicester campaigners have written to the city’s mayor to stop the former Western Park golf course becoming a huge housing estate.
The old course, which closed for financial reasons in 2015, is home to a variety of wildlife, including birds of prey, and many residents of the surrounding neighborhoods use it daily for exercise, walking their dogs, or simply escape into nature.
However, the area has been earmarked for around 466 gypsy and traveler homes, jobs and locations in Leicester’s draft local plan, and the city’s mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, said the council is under ‘enormous pressure’ to find such housing sites.
Campaigner Anna Baker said: ‘I know they have housing targets to meet, but there’s so much brownfield land in Leicester and Leicestershire to do that. So are there no other options for them rather than losing this green space? Once it’s lost, it’s lost. There is no coming back from that.
She added that many people from the campaign group would be happy to help the council look after the area as volunteers, if it were rescued.
Another, Steve Walters, added: “The golf course is a scenic area with ponds, a variety of trees and abundant wildlife. It is an oasis of greenery and that is how it should be kept.
“I can’t believe anyone could walk onto this golf course and walk away without thinking it’s a special case. Yet someone walked through it and thought ‘hmm, this is a good place to build”. I just don’t know how they got there.
Another activist, Susan Bywater, said green spaces must be preserved from what she sees as the destruction of nature. “It would make so much more sense to revamp a lot of places like this rather than totally redo them in urban areas because that would take many years to establish,” she said.
“Whatever land there is, it must be put to good use. And yes, of course, we also need houses, but place them on brownfields and carefully weigh the position between land for housing and land for parks.
Meanwhile, Approach golf coursewhich effectively closed in 2018, could be awarded green city status by North Somerset Council to protect it from development for future generations.
Green town and village status can be awarded to land if it can be shown that it has been used for recreation and “lawful sports and pastimes” for 20 years.
North Somerset Council Executive Member for Place Setting and Development Councilor Mark Canniford said: ‘While North Somerset is making the request and deciding on it, it still has to go through an internal process.
“There will also be a consultation process and the ability for people to raise objections. It is an important green space in North Somerset and loved by many people.
“It is right that he be protected for the future. I would also like it to be improved for recreational purposes and for the land to be made as accessible as possible to everyone.