An application to create 20 luxury holiday homes at Stonelees Golf Course has been submitted to Thanet council.
The proposal, on behalf of Greenfinches Residential Lettings Ltd and designed by South East Architectural Services, would also include a site office/reception building, parking and landscaping towards the Northern end of the site.
The course has provided local employment and also three other businesses including a golf store. However, planning documents for the proposal say: “Margins in the industry are very slim, with golf courses now closing at an alarming rate.
“The proposed construction of holiday homes at Stonelees would assist enormously in the continued existence of this business and its contribution to the economy. Although it is a natural progression of the Centre itself, it would inevitably be a contributor to the local economy as well.”
The original agreement between Greenfinches and site owner Rob Chapman was for a larger phased development of the site, starting with a new 120-bed hotel. The hotel was to be at the forefront of a new tourism push for the site and a hotel chain/ operator was on board. This was to be followed by a series of independent holiday homes, on the current application site.
After some 6-months of work the final hotel design was very close to completion and submission to Thane! District Council for approval.
Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the likely lasting economic and social effects, the applicant has decided to put a hold on the hotel project. They say the financial risk associated with such a huge project meant proceeding under the current climate is not feasible.
The focus has now moved to the holiday homes where guests would not having to mix with or share facilities with others as they would do under the roof of a hotel.
Planning documents state: “Combined with the fact that demand for UK based holidays and accommodation is likely to increase significantly in the short-term, certainly over the next few years, means the concept of these holiday rental homes is ultimately more feasible.
“Figures and statistics in recent years, point to clear increases of people visiting the Thanet area. As recently as 2015, the visitor economy had grown by 19%, making Thanet by far and away the biggest tourism success story certainly in Kent, arguably the entire UK.
“The same studies indicate a clear lack of accommodation within the entire district, something acknowledged by Thanet District Council.
“There is certainly a demand for tourist accommodation to maintain this growth in Thanet’s tourism economy and this proposal should be considered a welcome step in the right direction.”
The homes will be a mix of 3-bed and 4-bed layouts and will feature a private raised patio/ decked area (with steps leading down directly to the bank of the stream) for external seating, sunbathing, or al fresco dining. Each unit will also come with its own parking space.
The planning document says: “The proposed development will become a stand-alone, unique holiday resort/ village with its series of homes having little correlation to any of the existing buildings on the site. These homes have been designed to respect the sensitive nature and character of the surrounding area.
“The applicant and owner of the golf course have identified a clear demand for tourist and holiday accommodation. This development will serve to stimulate tourism within the district, at a time when holidaying within the UK becomes more and more favourable.
“The proposal is intended to form a small micro-community, for golfers and tourists alike; the first step of a wider plan for redeveloping the entire site. There is nothing else similar to these proposed holiday lodges in the area and their uniqueness and setting will be a key selling point to visitors.”
A decision is yet to be made on the application.
Details are on Thanet council’s planning portal, reference F/TH/20/0648
Where Stonelees began
Stonelees Golf Centre opened in May 1994, following a call from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, for more public facility golf courses to be built. At that time, many existing courses were private clubs with long waiting lists for prospective members and high joining fees.
It was decided to build three 9-hole courses, each progressively more difficult to play, but still of a standard eminently playable by all.
This led to the construction of the Par 3 course, then the Executive course, then the full-length Heights course. During the construction phase, a driving range, clubhouse and additional practise facilities were added to make this a complete golf centre. The centre is a family run business, open to all.