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Letter to Club & PGA

Dear Resident,

Below is a letter WERC sent to Wentworth Club and the PGA.  This states the Committee’s position in relation to the PGA tournament, after having considered the duty and responsibility of the Committee about covenants and the protection of the Estate, and mindful of the legal implications and the short timescale.  Please remember that our deliberations have been made in a private and confidential setting, and further discussion would not be made public until matters have progressed.

Kind regards

Sunil Liyanage

Chairman WERC

 


Mr S Gibson
Chief Executive
Wentworth Club Limited
Wentworth Drive
Virginia Water
Surrey GU25 4LS
 
Sir James Birkmyre
Championship Director
PGA European Tour
Wentworth Drive
Virginia Water
Surrey GU25 4LX
 
 
 
16 March 2016
 
 
Dear Stephen and Jamie
 
I write on behalf of WERC in relation to the BMW PGA Championship tournament due to take place at Wentworth Golf Club between 26 and 29 May 2016.  
 
The Committee has identified a number of issues regarding the 2016 tournament that it wishes to address in the light of its rights and duties under the Wentworth Estate Act 1964 in relation to the enforcement of Wentworth Estate covenants.
 
By way of background, the Committee has attempted for some time to engage with the Club and the PGA in relation to these matters. We wrote to Sir James Birkmyre in September 2015 requesting a meeting and expressing the Committee’s wish to be more involved in the planning of the PGA tournaments at Wentworth Golf Club. After receiving no response, we wrote again in December 2015 explaining the concerns of the Committee and the Estate residents over the increasing scale of the PGA tournaments each year. We asked the PGA to provide its plans for the 2016 tournament in respect of the number of spectator stands, parking arrangements, signage, the size and scale of the Championship Village and the plans for the music concert to the Committee. Our December letter also went unanswered. 
 
We wrote again at the beginning of January – this time Jamie responded by accepting that a meeting should take place but it took until February 3 for such meeting to take place as, we were told, various people from the European Tour were not available. In the PGA’s letter of 4 February 2016, after a meeting between the PGA and the Committee the previous day, Jamie expressed his concern about the late timing of the Committee’s involvement and its “apparent change of approach”. Our response on 5 February 2016 reiterated that the Committee had asked to meet with the PGA to discuss the plans for the 2016 tournament in September 2015, long before any dispute between the Club and its members arose. We wish to reiterate that the Committee is acting in accordance with its rights and duties, which it has considered carefully, and not for any other purpose.
 
Any perceived “late timing” is due to the Club’s and the PGA’s lack of engagement with the Committee in sufficient time to permit a full review of the plans for the 2016 tournament (which the Committee received on 3 February 2016 in the form of the 2016 Logistical Review). The Committee is doing the best it can in the circumstances.
 
The 2016 Logistical Review is a high-level document and, whilst providing helpful indicative information, does not provide the Committee with sufficient detail regarding the PGA’s and the Club’s plans to make fully informed decisions in relation to the enforcement of the Estate covenants. We have set out some specific information requests further below in this letter but for the sake of completeness, we also request that the Club and the PGA provide detailed plans and disclosures in relation to the following matters: (a) the steps that are being taken to limit any inconvenience or disturbance to Estate residents in respect of the extent and scale of the Championship Village, both generally and specifically in relation to tents, marquees and grandstands; (b) any buildings (whether or not temporary) or other structure which is not, or may not be, a grandstand, tent or marquee which the Club or PGA propose to erect (including details of the location, dimensions and material); (c) any plans for the usage of funfair apparatus, caravans or other mobile accommodation; (d) plans for the storage of rubbish, waste and building materials during the construction of the Championship Village and during the tournament itself; and (e) plans for the location and operating times for any exterior floodlighting.
 
Please also confirm that no Estate covenants will, as far as you are aware, be impacted before or during the 2016 tournament, including during the construction and dismantling of the Championship Village, or if they will be impacted why, in the PGA’s and the Club’s opinion, it would be reasonable for the Committee (to the extent it is required or otherwise minded to) to consent to those matters.
 
Please note that the Committee intends to review the level of payment which would be reasonable for the Club and/or the PGA to contribute in connection with the 2016 tournament once full details have been provided to the Committee in accordance with this letter. The current level of the Facility Fee paid by the PGA to the Committee each year is arguably insufficient in light of the level of disruption and nuisance caused to Estate residents by the tournament.
 

  1. Mike and the Mechanics and Tom Chaplin concerts (28 and 29 May 2016)  
    In addition to our letters to the PGA, the Committee also wrote to Stephen Gibson on 2 February 2016 requesting details of the Mike and the Mechanics concert which we understand is proposed for 28 May 2016. We explained that organising an event such as a concert required advance permission from the Committee, which had not been sought or given. We have unfortunately received no response to this letter. Nor have we received any request for consent to the Tom Chaplin concert proposed to take place on 29 May 2016.
     
    After careful consideration, the Committee has determined that both the above concerts breach the Estate covenants because they are not reasonably incidental to the use of the Club’s land as a Golf and Country Club. The Committee further considers that they are not events that would be in the interests of the majority of Estate residents because of the likelihood of nuisance and disruption, including due to the increased number of spectators, the noise and increased pressure on the infrastructure of the Wentworth Estate. The Committee is not therefore minded to agree to any release from the covenants, having taken all of these matters into consideration. 
    Please can you kindly confirm within 7 days that the concerts will not proceed. 
    Should any other such events be proposed, please can you kindly seek the Committee’s consent in advance.
     
  2. Directional signage and advertising for the 2016 tournament on Committee roads 
    In our letter of December 2015, we requested details of proposed signage for the 2016 tournament, but have not received any comprehensive plans.
     
    The roads on the Wentworth Estate are private roads owned by the Committee. Signage and advertising are, in almost all cases, not permitted by the Committee. However, the Committee appreciates that directional signage to the Club and to the car parks during the 2016 tournament is likely to be beneficial to all. We therefore request that you submit a plan for the proposed locations and designs for directional signage on the Wentworth Estate for the Committee’s approval. For the avoidance of doubt, advertising logos and branding are not necessary in order to direct traffic to and from the Club and may not be included in such directional signage.
     
    We also request that you submit designs for our approval in relation to the advertising boards at the entrances to the West Drive and Wentworth Drive off the A30 which we understand are proposed. Subject to receipt of acceptable plans, the Committee is
     
    minded to permit the use of these advertising boards for the 2016 tournament for up to eight weeks. However, you should be aware that the Committee may determine in future years that advertising in these locations (or any other locations on the Wentworth Estate) will not be permitted at all.
     
  3. Advertising during the 2016 tournament on the Club’s land 
    We are aware that a significant amount of advertising will be erected on the Club’s land during the 2016 tournament. Of particular concern is the large hoarding on the back of the grandstand that is proposed will be used for BMW advertising, as confirmed in the 2016 Logistical Review. The proposal for the grandstand hoarding (or indeed any other proposal regarding advertising during the tournament) was not submitted in writing to the Committee for its prior approval.
     
    Notwithstanding this, the Committee is minded to permit some advertising that is planned for the 2016 tournament on the Club’s land, to the extent it has been disclosed in writing to us. Therefore, we ask you to submit to us a comprehensive plan showing all advertising proposed for the 2016 tournament. However, we wish to inform you that plans for future years (including plans as to both the location of the advertising and the proposed designs) must be submitted to the Committee a sufficient amount of time in advance of the tournament to permit the Committee to carry out a proper review. We ask that such plans be submitted within 2 months of the end of the 2016 tournament (and remind you that any advertising inconsistent with the character of the Estate may not be permitted).
     
    In particular, the Committee considers that the hoarding at the back of the grandstand may not be suitable as an advertising space due to its significant size and the fact that it can be viewed from Wentworth Drive. Until relatively recently, it had not been used as an advertising space and  was more discreet and in keeping with the character of the Wentworth Estate. 
    The Committee reserves the right in future years to refuse to permit any advertising on the Club’s land.
     
  4. Cables, cable ducts and cable bridges  
    The PGA or Club have in previous years made use of two cable ducts and a number of cable bridges running under or over roads owned by the Committee for the purposes of TV broadcasting and the provision of IT services during the PGA tournaments. 
    The Committee’s consent for this arrangement has not been sought for the 2016 tournament and no details have been provided of the proposed arrangements. Please can the PGA and the Club now provide: 
  1. A plan of all proposed locations for cables, cable bridges, cable ducts and any related apparatus for the 2016 tournament;
  2. An explanation as to why the PGA and the Club consider that the Committee should consent to the above arrangements. 
    The provision of this information will enable the Committee to make a fully informed decision regarding the entitlement of the Club and the PGA to make use of these structures for the 2016 tournament and in relation to tournaments in future years.
     
    For the time being, the Committee does not consent to any such arrangements.
     
    Please can the Club and PGA also let us know the proposed location and height of all TV towers which are proposed for the 2016 tournament. As far as we are aware, no details have so far been provided to us.
     
  1. Road closures 
    We understand that the Club has, during previous tournaments, denied residents vehicular access to certain Estate roads. The residents (and their visitors) are entitled to use Estate roads at all times, including during the tournament, and their access cannot be limited to pedestrian access.
     
    However, the Committee recognises that motor traffic may distract players and does not therefore object in principle to the cessation of traffic for a few minutes while tournament players are teeing off. Please can the Club and the PGA confirm their agreement to this proposal, which is designed to accommodate the needs of both the Club/PGA and residents, and let us know what specific instructions will be given to tournament Marshalls to ensure that the residents’ vehicular rights of access are not, save for this limited proposed exception, obstructed.
     
  2. Size of the grandstand in the Championship Village  
    The increased size of the grandstand in the Championship Village during the 2015 tournament (we understand the size of the grandstand will remain the same in 2016) required the Club and the PGA to close off a section of Wentworth Drive for safety reasons.  Consequently, traffic had to travel in single file past the grandstand. This part-closure of Wentworth Drive is not acceptable due to the disturbance and inconvenience it causes to residents. 
     
    Notwithstanding this, the Committee is minded to consent to the proposed size of the grandstand for the 2016 tournament, providing Wentworth Drive remains safe and fully open and accessible for residents (but not otherwise). The Club and PGA should not, however, assume that the Committee will consent in future years to a grandstand of this size.
     
  3. Size of the tournament in general 
    As previously addressed in our letter of December 2015, the increasing size of the PGA tournament year on year is causing significant disruption to the Estate residents due to such factors as increasing numbers of spectators, a lengthy construction timetable which now takes up approximately three months of the year (and which has often led to construction work taking place that is not in accordance with the Wentworth Estate Contractors’ Working Rules) and considerable demands on the Wentworth Estate’s infrastructure due to the number of lorries and other vehicles driving into the Estate. During the tournament, thousands of cars drive into the Estate and parking spaces are made available for spectators at various places on the Club land (in particular, for BMW owners) and the Park & Ride system.
     
    We wish to inform the Club and the PGA that the Committee intends to carry out a full review of the size and scale of the tournament for 2017 which will involve a review of (a) the number of spectators, (b) the number and size of the car parks, (c) the size of the Championship Village, (d) the nature of and the materials used for the structures in the Championship Village and whether such structures can be categorised as grandstands, tents or marquees, and (e) the length of the construction timetable, amongst other matters. The Committee considers it is necessary to determine whether a reduction in the size of the tournament, or further conditions to the granting of consent, would be appropriate in order to reduce the disruption caused to the Estate residents and act consistently with the Estate covenants.
     
    In the meantime for the 2016 tournament, it is incumbent on the Club and the PGA to ensure that the contractors involved in the construction of the Championship Village and any other elements of the tournament, adhere to the Wentworth Estate Contractors’ Working Rules, including adherence to the working hours of 8am to 5pm on week days and 8am to 12 midday on Saturdays. No work can take place on Sundays or bank holidays. Please can the Club and PGA confirm that those requirements will be respected.
     
  4. Conclusion  
    It is in the interests of the Club and the PGA to ensure that they comply with the estate covenants and to cooperate fully with the Committee, in particular by providing full and detailed disclosure of plans for tournaments as far in advance as reasonably practicable. We have always been, and remain, open to constructive discussions with the Club and the PGA. However, constructive discussions can only take place if full disclosure is provided with sufficient time to review and consider plans and any amendments. It is not reasonable to put pressure on the Committee to approve plans which have been provided late on the basis that there is no time left to change anything.   
     
    The Committee takes its duties and responsibilities under the Wentworth Estate Act and the various deeds it has entered into with the Club and the PGA European Tour seriously. The decisions it has taken, as set out in this letter, are the result of careful consideration, where appropriate taking the interests of the Club into account as well as the interests of the Estate residents generally. Any consent given by the Committee is based on those matters disclosed to it. The Committee does not, for the avoidance of doubt, consent to anything which has not been properly disclosed to it. The Committee generally expects material matters to be disclosed in writing, so that they can be given due and proper consideration. Notwithstanding this, we have attempted to address certain undisclosed or partially disclosed matters in this letter, so that agreement can be reached in good time.
     
    The Committee wishes to emphasise that it will look at all matters each tournament year with an open mind and taking into account all relevant factors prevalent at the time. The fact that consent may have been given or refused this year, or for that matter in previous years, will not be determinative of the Committee’s approach in future years.
     
    We have requested a number of confirmations and plans from the Club and the PGA in this letter in relation to the 2016 tournament. We would be grateful if such confirmations and plans can be provided by 23 March 2016. The Committee looks forward to engaging in a constructive dialogue with the Club and the PGA.
     
     
    Yours sincerely
     
Sunil Liyanage
Chairman (WERC) 
 

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