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Golf Resort proposals have a negative impact

Friday, 18 October 2019 20:32

For the past three weeks, the Hulton Park Public Inquiry has been taking place in Bolton. CPRE Lancashire fielded Dr Des Brennan as CPRE Lancashire’s representative at the public speaker session on Thursday 10th October 2019.  He gave an excellent, considered and detailed representation concerning the s106 Agreement, which has since been updated, and is now watertight on the issue of no commencement of ALL and ANY development to the proposal site before it is certain that Peel’s bid to host a Ryder Cup tournament has been successful.  


For the avoidance of doubt, we are strongly opposed to the development proposed by Peel were its bid to host at first the 2026 and subsequently the 2030 and/or 2034 Ryder Cup tournament at Hulton Park be successful. The development would consist of an 18-hole championship golf resort and clubhouse, a golf Academy (comprising a driving range, a practice course, an adventure course, and an Academy building), a hotel (with adjoining spa and conference facility) and miscellaneous other structures; it would also include an enabling development of more than 1,000 homes in the Green Belt.  We objected to the original application, and wrote to the Secretary of State requesting a “call in” of the decision when Bolton Council decided it was minded to approve the application by the narrow vote of 8 to 7 members.  The elections in May altered the make-up of the Council, and Peel requested bids for the 2030 and/or 2034 Ryder Cup tournament, following Adare Manor being awarded the 2026 event, yet the Council decision was not revisited. 

Peel had some eleven professional witnesses covering all topics, and the supporting information comprised approximately 1,000 Inquiry documents.

The local residents who spoke at the Inquiry gave frank and impassioned representations of why the development would if approved adversely impact on them and their local community.  Elaine Taylor of Lancashire Gardens Trust referred to the Park as a ‘sleeping giant’ and emphasised the ‘art’ of the ‘designed’ pleasure grounds, serpentine lake and other Emes features.  The loss of Dearden’s Farm, a three generation farm and now local hub for the community with its café and farm shop was highlighted as a particular loss, as would be the farm diversification business being run by the farmer and his daughters.  

Two constituency MPs (one Conservative, one Labour), and each of the ward local councillors spoke out about how inequitable the proposals would be. There was a general distrust of Peel, the strategic investment company, when its previous proposals to convert its golf courses elsewhere in the City-Region into residential developments were laid bare.  Only one single representation was made in support of the proposal and this was from Gary Cook, former CEO of Manchester City, and now an independent Sports Consultant with connections to Peel. 

CPRE Lancashire, in support of HEART (the local community action group opposing the application and which hasRule 6 status), contracted out Ms Jackie Copley our Planning Manager on a consultancy basis to act as an independent planning witness.  

HEART witness, Mr Chris Gallagher, Historic Landscape Consultant, gave a solid account of why the Register Park and Garden would be substantially harmed (in National Planning Policy Framework and National Planning Practice Guidance terms) by the introduction of golf features across the historic landscape designed by famous landscapers and improvers William Emes and John Webb.  Ms Copley focused on the planning policy conflicts at the local and national level.  She showed that the benefits (comprising a “one-off” large tournament, and some related economic growth focused predominantly outside of the Bolton area) would be far outweighed in the planning balance by the harms done to the Green Belt and the heritage assets.  Both Mr Gallagher and Ms Copley stood their ground when they came under fire during the cross-examination by Peel’s barrister, Russell Harris QC, and the Council’s barrister, Matthew Dale Harris.  

Mr Peter Dixon, Barrister, who led the HEART case, summarised for the Inspector, whose task is to report and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, why the very special circumstances required to justify development in the Green Belt had not been demonstrated and therefore the application should be refused. 

HEART was congratulated on its professionalism and courtesy throughout the Inquiry.

CPRE Lancashire earnestly hopes its voice, and that of HEART, in making their substantive representations to the Inspector, will be heard by the Secretary of State and enable a refusal of Peel’s application.  

This Inquiry sitting days finished in the same week CPRE’s National Office published its Space to breath – A State of the Green Belt report.  The report identifies the benefits of Green Belt for public access, food production and protecting openness.  The research highlights the failure of Green Belt development to contribute much needed rural affordable housing, and calls for more prioritisation of a true brownfield first approach. 

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