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Carnoustie Golf Course Hotel
Hotel with control over tee-times on the 'public' championship course
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More important matters discussed at forum

D McNicoll, Letter to Editor, The Courier, 27 October 2000

Sir,—What a disappointment it was to read the report (October 26) on the Carnoustie Area Forum. It will be obvious to the 100 or so residents who attended the meeting your article was taken from a prepared communication from Angus Council’s media services department or Councillor Selfridge.

The subject matter of your account - more visitor times for hoteliers and guest houses - was not the number one issue on the minds of the public gathering. That issue lasted two minutes, whereas other salient matters occupied much more time.

It was pointed out that Angus Council’s proposal to replace the current Carnoustie Golf Links Management Committee with a three-tier structure was rejected out of hand by the CGLMC. Indeed the present chairman of the Links Committee, Bill Gardner, informed the assembly of the Links’ own response for a re-structured committee, stressing it would be democratic and accountable.

The subject of indemnity for the CGLMC in the event of legal action was raised as Angus Council currently does not “cover” the committee even though the golf courses are a public facility and the CGLMC manage them on behalf of Angus Council.

However, the most important item was the course access agreement and its failings. I can assure you, ensuring more visitors gain access to the course was not what was uppermost in most people’s minds. What residents wanted to hear was when and if the agreement was going to be renegotiated.

Councillor Murphy said he was confused at Press reports that said all three parties were keen to find a solution when he was under the impression the Carnoustie Hotel was satisfied with a legally-binding document.

Therefore the outcome of the forum differs greatly from your report. All three parties are not 'in talks agreeing the current situation is unsatisfactory’. The truth is the residents of Carnoustie look to be saddled with this wretched agreement until 2033, and one of the serious consequences of that is hard working members of the community are not going to have access to their course for the next 33 years.

• Mr McNicoll is incorrect in his initial statement. The information was not taken from a prepared communication. I attended the forum and listened to the discussions. Much of what was said regarding the golf course access agreement has been said on numerous occasions in the past and both sides of the argument have already been covered at length by The Courier. - Colin Hogarth.

Who made decision for Carnoustie venue?

D W Bond, Letter to Editor, The Courier, 19 October 2000

Sir, With the announcement of the re vamped Dunhill Tournament being played over three golf courses, The Old Course, Kingsbarns and Camoustie, it again raises the question - who is running Carnoustie Golf Links?

I spoke to a number of Links Management Committee members, and none of them knew anything of the arrangement of Carnoustie being part of this National Pro-Am.

Who made the decision on behalf of CLMC for the course to be a venue for this tournament? Is it a case of the “landlord” making deals without the tenants’ permission?

No intimation has been made in the minutes of the committee meetings.

When The Open was at Carnoustie, it was the worst attended event in the previous 11 years of any Open venue. Local hotels have not benefited, in fact, several hotels and guest houses in Carnoustie have since closed.

Attendance at the Dunhill has never been spectacular due to the time of year and the poor weather associated with it. This is coupled with a mediocre field of players as the top American players have more important things on their minds like qualifying for the top 30 in their order of merit which enables them to play in the lucrative Tour Championship.

No doubt the season ticket price will be increased again this coming year with a further reduction in playing access.

Someone in the Angus area obviously knows who made this agreement behind the backs of the Golf Course Committee. It’s about time the whole situation relating to access and tournaments and just who is running Carnoustie Golf Courses was brought out into the open.

£750,000 plans to expand golf hotel would create local jobs

The Courier, 7 April 2000

A £750,000 expansion of the Carnoustie Golf Course Hotel is planned with the creation of around 20 new jobs. Planning applications have been lodged with Angus Council for extensions to the gym, bar and pro shop at the complex on Carnoustie Links.

Hotel owner Michael Johnston said the development would lead to more people being added to the staff, who hail predominantly from Carnoustie and the surrounding area.

“Once we settled in we saw areas that could be developed and these changes are for the good of the hotel. We are continually looking at ways to make the hotel better,” he said.

If the project gets the go-ahead from planners, the gym will be doubled in size, the pro shop will be extended to offer a wider range and a conservatory will be added to the bar and restaurant on the patio area overlooking the first tee of the Championship Course.

“The conservatory will add a new dimension to the bar and restaurant,” said Mr Johnston.

“We get a lot of ‘sunshine on that side of the building and it will allow people in the bar to get a great view over the course. We want to create a bistro-type atmosphere there where people can come and enjoy a meal.”

Mr Johnston said that the developments highlight their commitment to Carnoustie and to creating new local jobs.

He added, “We are a major employer in the area and we’ve always wanted to employ local people and we’ve a very good staff throughout the complex.

“My aim now is to go forward, expand the hotel...and give a boost to the local community in the process."

Future of golf hotel swings in the balance

Millionaire behind luxury development for Carnoustie links liquidates other assets

Alan Gill, Scotland on Sunday, 7 February, 1999

This summer, when Carnoustie hosts its first Open Championship for 24 years, the famous club plans to celebrate its return to the international golf circuit with the opening of a £6m hotel overlooking the 18th green.

But a question mark hangs over the future of the hotel, whose board members include Scotland’s former lord advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie.

The millionaire behind the project has been forced to liquidate part of his business empire, owing creditors hundreds of thousands of pounds. Michael Johnston, a former Dundee plumber who has become one of Scotland’s most successful property developers, has folded his Buster’s chain of fish and chip restaurants with debts of £350,000. Johnston has lost a personal shareholding worth more than £2m in the collapse.

George Lamont, a former councilIor who resigned from Angus Council over allegations of secrecy surrounding the hotel development, was astonished at the news. “His [Johnston’s] commercialism must be suspect. Is he going to go bankrupt? The builders have been sailing pretty dose to the wind to complete in time for the Open and now this has cropped up to add even more doubt. I am flabbergasted.

The Buster’s restaurants in Dundee, Newcastle and Manchester closed last year with the loss of 150 jobs. No buyer was found and the assets of the business are now being sold off at rock-bottom prices. The creditors have virtually no chance of getting their money back.

One of them is Andrew Nicoll, whose Dundee architects firm carried out work on the restaurants. “We have lost tens of thousands of pounds and I don’t think our chances of recovering any of it are very good. This is not some small trader who has experienced bad luck. This is a wealthy businessman who has decided to pull the plug on one of his companies. It is not good practice and the law should be tightened up to plug these loopholes.”

It is not the first time misfortune has struck Johnston. A shop-fitting business firm he owned, lBS Ltd, was wound up in 1996 with debts of £600,000. Jim Fyffe was one of Johnston’s creditors.

“I had a firm which made suspended ceilings. We did work for him in one of his cinemas and he took us for £21,000 when lBS folded. I never got a penny.”

The first restaurant opened in Stacks leisure park in Dundee on the former site of Camperdown jute works, which Johnston transformed into a housing and leisure complex. It was that deal which created him an estimated £14m fortune and all the trappings of wealth. He has his own aeroplane and a fleet of expensive cars, including a £450,000 Ferrari.

His company has persuaded the Carnoustie Golf Links Management Committee to surrender its famous ‘Craw’s Nest’ logo and the title Carnoustie Golf Links as part of the contract to build the 85-bedroom hotel, which will double as the clubhouse.

So Johnston will be able to market the logo worldwide, taking advantage of the massive exposure the Open Championship will bestow.

He will also receive £75,000 a year from the committee for rental of office premises within the hotel - despite the fact that the golf club made a donation of £300,000 towards the cost of building the hotel.

Meanwhile, Lord Fraser, who became a non-executive director of the hotel last year, was not perturbed by the news. “I don’t actually see that there is any question over the viability of the hotel and there not being enough money to complete it.”

When Scotland on Sunday attempted to contact Mr Johnston there was no response to our phone calls and no-one was at home when we visited his new £250,000 bungalow on the outskirts of Dundee.

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