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Royal Dornoch Golf Club lease in the spotlight again

By Caroline McMorran

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Highland Council has brokered a fresh deal with Royal Dornoch Golf Club over its occupation of Common Good Land.

The club has been paying a peppercorn rent of £150 a year in a historic agreement dating back to 1973, but it is now proposed that sum soar by up to £50,0000 a year.

The move comes after a previous agreement reached in principle earlier this year, fell by the wayside following a complaint from a local resident over “misleading wording”.

A renewed community consultation has now been launched, as is required under the Community Empowerment Act.

The club’s existing 99-year lease has until 2072 to run, but in recent years there has been criticism about the low level of rental given the club’s worldwide status and income. In addition, Royal Dornoch is keen to build a new clubhouse.

Highland Council, which administers the Common Good Fund also want to regularise the land under lease.

The consultation document states: “The new area of 85,629 hectares now proposed to be leased, is substantially smaller than the area of 123 hectares contained in the original lease.”

In the initial agreement reached made public in February, it was proposed that the club pay £25,000 a year in rental, plus a further minimum annual £25,000 payment in relation to player rounds on the championship course. Payments were to be index linked and reviewed every five years.

A consultation exercise was launched, but then withdrawn following a complaint that the description of £25,000 as a “fair market rent” was debatable and therefore misleading.

Local residents Duncan Allan, a former Highland councillor, and Sir Gavin Gilbey also criticised the level of rental agreed, claiming it was far too low.

In a letter to the Northern Times at the time, Sir Gavin wrote: “An asset like Royal Dornoch Golf Club, grossing over $2 million per annum, should be paying between £75,000 and £100,000 in annual rent.”

The latest proposal is that a base rent of £25,000 per annum be paid with an additional £25,000 per anum payable upon breaking ground for the construction of a new clubhouse.

Dornoch Community Council backed the agreement at its Zoom meeting on December 16.

To access the consultation document, visit highland.gov.uk and search for “Common Good asset changes”.

Representations should be made by March 12 to: common.good@highland.gov.uk or by post to Sara Murdoch, Highland Council, Headquarters, Glen-urquhart Road, Inverness, IV3 5NX.

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