Golf Resort gamble, as proposals ONLY allowed if Ryder Cup successful
Hulton Park decision: housing development can only take place if the bid to host the Ryder Cup is successful.
We are disappointed that permission has been granted for Peel Holding’s Hulton Park development proposals. But we are delighted that, together with Hulton Estate Area Residents Together (HEART), we managed to achieve a number of successful conditions to improve the construction, design and operation phases of the development.
The most significant condition, put forward by CPRE’s Dr Des Brennan at the Inquiry, restricts any development to the Ryder Cup being secured. Not only did the Inspector recommend the condition, but Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government explicitly accepted it as necessary. It is possible that this condition will effectively stop the development from ever happening.
European Tour unlikely to award the Ryder Cup to Hulton
Would such a prestigious golf tournament be awarded to Bolton’s Hulton Park? Despite having nationally significant history linked to the ‘Charge of the Peterloo Massacre,’ and a landscape designed by Emes and Webb, it has no real history of golf. Will the fact that the golf resort is vociferously opposed locally (including by both MPs) enable Hulton to be a candidate venue? Could the Government back a bid by Peel when harms to the historic parkland and Green Belt were acknowledged? Would the European Tour be wise to back an unviable project? At Inquiry, even when factoring in the major enabling development of more than 1,000 homes, the ‘eye watering’ deficit of tens of millions pounds resulted in no affordable housing being secured. A successful bid seems highly unlikely.
CPRE will work with HEART’s local ‘eyes and ears’ to ensure the restrictive condition is enforced. Not a single tree should be felled or a spade put in the ground.
In autumn 2019, CPRE supported the local campaign group Hulton Estate Area Residents Together (HEART) led by Peter Dixon, Barrister at the Inquiry, which lasted 3 weeks. HEART’s planning expert, Jackie Copley, demonstrated to the Inspector that the development is not in accordance with the adopted Bolton Local Plan, that it would cause harm the Green Belt purpose and that the purported benefits were overly exaggerated. It was shown most of the benefits would not be felt locally to Bolton and neighbouring Wigan, but would go to elsewhere. Indeed the development itself could have gone elsewhere. Christopher Gallagher, Historic Landscape Consultant, evidenced the harm of overlaying an 18-hole golf course on top of the historic landscape designed by famous landscapers and improvers William Emes and John Webb, to the heritage designation of the Grade II listed Registered Park and Garden.
When judging the planning balance, irrespective of the viability gap, the weighing factor of both Secretary of State and Inspector, was the ‘estimated scale’ of the benefits of hosting a single Ryder Cup tournament, which requires an 18-hole championship golf resort with clubhouse, academy, hotel/spa and conference facility, (and an enabling development of more than 1,000 houses). Peel Holdings promised to cover the cost of developing the golf course out of its own pocket, but in reality the cost will be borne by those least well off locally, as no affordable housing can be delivered, at least in the early stages of the development. Fortunately, HEART’s team pushed for a review mechanism, to reassess the viability of the 20 year project at three intervals, to capture any uplift in property values. However, a master profit of between 20-25% has been identified first. So, who exactly covers the cost of the development is open to dispute.
The Inspector acknowledged HEART and CPRE for being well organised. Together they supported residents to provide clear accounts of foreseen problems, leading to conditions. One notable condition relates to fifty public events to be held by the operator to interpret the value of Hulton’s (remaining) historic landscape. CPRE will ensure local people and its members take full advantage of this public benefit should it ever materialise.