RACECOURSE bosses have warned they could block access to an historic golf course on race days as a row over health and safety escalates.

Musselburgh Links, The Old Course, which is believed to be the oldest operating course in the world, shares its Common Good land with Musselburgh Racecourse.

However, relations between the two operators have become strained over efforts by the racecourse to introduce non-race day events on the track.

The golf course operator enjoyleisure insists that health and safety policy dictates that no golf should be played when racing events are on and has traditionally suspended sessions during track activities on race days.

However, it has always been understood that on non-race days the golf course has priority.

Now Musselburgh Racecourse wants to introduce non-race day events and has produced an independent risk assessment it says shows both sporting venues can operate together.

At a meeting of Musselburgh Racing Associated Committee (MRAC) this week, Bill Farnsworth, racecourse general manager, said the new report showed there were ways to “mitigate risk” that would allow events on the track while golf is being played.

But he said enjoyleisure refused to accept its findings, accusing it of being “entrenched” in the belief that the only way to avoid risk was to “eliminate it”.

He claimed that every attempt to schedule a non-race day event with the golf club had failed because each time he was told the course could not be closed to accommodate it.

And he said it left Musselburgh as the only racecourse in the country not offering local schoolchildren the chance to take part in a Race to School maths programme which runs each year, bringing youngsters track-side.

And Mr Farnsworth warned that the golf course’s position could lead to a harder line on race days.

He said: “Their position has been that golf cannot take place while activities are on the track.

“When we ask to schedule an event on a non-race day, we are told ‘sorry, the golf course is busy so it cannot take place’.

“We have the right to close the golf course on race days or close access to the links; we do not want to do that, we would rather work with them.”

During the MRAC meeting, committee member Councillor Katie Mackie agreed to attend a scheduled meeting between the two operators to try and help mediate a solution.

She told the committee: “This issue comes up at every meeting and I am flabbergasted there is no solution.”

Bill Axon, enjoyleisure’s general manager, welcomed the attendance of Councillor Mackie at the meeting and expressed disappointment that the issue had been raised at MRAC ahead of discussions.

He said: “The current position adopted by enjoy is based on an independent risk assessment carried out by East Lothian Council and recommendations provided by other professional advisors to its executive management team, which also have the unanimous backing of the enjoy board.

“Enjoy has a responsibility legally, professionally and morally to work jointly with the racecourse to ensure (as best we can) the safety of users of our facilities and the wider community; this will remain our priority as we move forward.”