Hulton Park Public Inquiry
Hulton Park is a large historic estate in the Green Belt near Bolton, comprised almost entirely of woodland, agricultural land and parkland. Peel Holdings propose to build an 18-hole championship golf resort and clubhouse, a golf academy, a hotel and miscellaneous other structures. The application also includes an enabling development of more than 1,000 homes in the Green Belt. Although narrowly approved (8-7) by Bolton Council, the application was called in by the Secretary of State. The Public Inquiry took place in Bolton from 3rd – 16th October.
Ryder Cup bid cited as justification for Green Belt development
The Inquiry is the latest stage in a planning case which originated when Peel Holdings, who acquired the site in 2010, announced their proposals for the site in 2016. Before Peel bought the site it had been owned by the Hulton family since the early 1300, which is thought to be the longest uninterrupted tenure of any land in the UK. Peel Holdings’ application states that a bid for the golf course to host the Ryder Cup in 2030 or 2034 forms the basis of the ‘very special circumstances’ needed to build in the Green Belt.
CPRE Lancashire supported local residents
CPRE Lancashire, supporting HEART (the local community action group opposing the application, which has Rule 6 status), contracted out Ms Jackie Copley, our Planning Manager, on a consultancy basis to act as an independent planning witness.
Dr Des Brennan represented CPRE Lancashire, and focused on the Section 106 agreement. This is a piece of planning legislation by which a development proposal which would otherwise be unacceptable can be made acceptable in planning terms. In this case, it details the fact that development of the site cannot take place unless it is certain that the bid to host the Ryder Cup has been successful. However, CPRE Lancashire is strongly opposed to this inappropriate development in the Green Belt, whether or not the Ryder Cup bid succeeds.
A ‘sleeping giant’
Local opinion is strongly against the development of this much loved green space. Residents who spoke at the Inquiry clearly explained why the development would have an adverse impact on them and their local community. Elaine Taylor of Lancashire Gardens Trust referred to the Park as a ‘sleeping giant’, emphasising the ‘art’ of the ‘designed’ pleasure grounds, serpentine lake and other features designed by William Emes. Residents also highlighted the potential harm from the loss of Dearden’s Farm, a family business and community hub with café and farm shop.
CPRE Lancashire earnestly hopes its voice, and that of HEART, will be heard by the Secretary of State and enable a refusal of Peel’s application.
Space to breathe
The Inquiry finished in the same week CPRE’s National Office published its Space to breathe – A State of the Green Belt report. The report identifies the benefits of Green Belt for public access, food production and protecting openness. Its findings show that Green Belt development has failed to bring forward rural affordable housing. The report calls for more prioritisation of a true brownfield first approach.