NEW PLAN FOR BALLYHOLME PITCH AND PUTT

AN UNDERUSED pitch and putt in the Ballyholme area of Bangor could be transformed to provide new ‘foot golf’ and ‘frisbee golf’ facilities for local people and visitors. 

Kingsland pitch and putt is a nine-hole course traditionally staffed in the summer months but following years of low user rates, its managers hope the new style offering will attract more – all year round.

It is anticipated the service will be free to use in the short-term but could eventually attract a ‘charging policy to be implemented which could drive income generation at the site’. 

Managed for Ards and North Down Council by the Northern Community Leisure Trust (NCLT) through agents, Serco, it is staffed every July and August, but the new plans would open the facility without the need for staff. 

Users would bring their own footballs and frisbees to use at the revamped site, which consists of an enclosed putting area alongside tennis courts and pavillion, and overlooks Ballyholme Yacht Club and Ballyholme Bay. 

Currently, the council subsidises the management of the facility to Serco to the tune of £7,700. But with the facility reducing staffing levels to just eight hours per week to mow and strim the green, that would reduce to £4,000 per year.

If approved by the full council at its next monthly meeting, Serco will use the operating subsidy, to pay for the purchase and installation of equipment. 

That would mean no additional cost to the council in year one, with a reduced cost to the council from year two onwards.

A report on the proposals to the council’s Community and Wellbeing Committee showed visitor numbers fell to as low as four per day last year during its opening months last summer. 

“It can be clearly seen there is little demand for the activity, particularly with a similar miniature golf facility at Pickie Park and putting green Ward Park,” stated a report.

However, officials believe the new facilities at Kingsland would benefit from, and complement, the upcoming Bangor Waterfront development.

Councillors were given three options by Serco to consider during last Wednesday’s meeting, including retaining the status quo at the pitch and putt facility.

The second option, to accept Serco’s proposal of replacing current provision with a free to use frisbee/foot golf facility which would remain unstaffed for the remainder of the contract and change the contract fees as detailed above.

The third option was to install the new facility at an additional cost to council in 2024/25 of £6,500 but retain the current contractual staffing during July and August.

The council’s leisure department noted its support for the proposed changes but recommended that current staffing levels in the summer months be retained.

“Maintaining the staff arrangements which are currently in place for golf at the site could provide an onsite point for contact for information on the new facility, encourage facility usage, ensure safe and appropriate use and enable equipment to be hired or loaned to customers 

Alliance councillor Hannah Irwin, who represents the Bangor East and Donaghadee area, proposed option two, which attracts no extra cost. The proposal was seconded by councillor Stephen Hollywood of the UUP and agreed to by the committee.

Bangor West representative Mr Hollywood said he had played football golf previously, believing ‘it has the potential to generate a lot of interest’.

Alderman Robert Adair of the DUP said he wanted to ‘give credit where credit is due’ by paying tribute to his party colleague, councillor Alistair Cathcart who he said had ‘brought this forward’ and had ‘been campaigning for this’ for a considerable time ‘to ensure that family fun can continue to grow in this area’.