Danny Willett, the 2016 Masters champion, is backing noted instructor Pete Cowen’s attempts to stop the UK’s Environment Agency from reopening a rubbish tip – or landfill – just yards away from his highly prized golf academy in Rotherham, England.
“It’s so sad to hear that the waste tip might still go ahead and possibly close both the golf academy and the adjacent football academy,” Willett said. “It would be a tragedy to lose these great facilities – and possibly to miss out on some of the great golfers and footballers of the future at the same time.”
Cowen, one of the foremost coaches in the world, could do without the mounting sheaf of paperwork which has been occupying his mind since the Environment Agency reissued a permit for a tip which first opened in the 1950s. Though it was closed and sealed on the agency’s orders at a stage when it was named as one of the top 50 toxic sites in the country, officials now claim that enough time has elapsed for it to come back into play.
Rotherham County Council, no less than Willett, are backing Cowen. In their correspondence with the Environment Agency, the council have pointed to what happened when, as per requirements, a site investigation team was called in to examine the supposed “inert” tip. The owner of the investigation company – Site Investigation Services – discovered that the contents were anything but lifeless. The three bore holes made by their company suggested that material was still rotting and that cyanide was in the mix.
Further evidence of the cyanide was backed up by local residents who told of how, in the 1970s, there were ponds of blue slurry on the site and that when cattle escaped a nearby field and drank the fluid, 20 were poisoned. (Intriguingly, it was the Leeds branch of the Environment Agency that issued a report on the cows’ death and the likely connection to cyanide.)
“Apart from the obvious dangers, the smell of toxic waste is terrible,” said Cowen. “People don’t want to stand and breathe in dust and waste from a tip that is 50 yards away. If it is reopened, there is a good chance that I will have to close.”
Cowen, who numbers Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Tommy Fleetwood as well as Willett among his pupils, reportedly has invested £1.7 million in his academy since it opened in 2003.