The developer behind Hoylake Golf Resort has launched a passionate defence of the controversial scheme – insisting it is a win-win for the local community which will deliver significant benefits for Wirral.
The proposal, first announced in 2015, would see two new championship golf courses – including the only Jack Nicklaus designed municipal course in the country, along with a luxury hotel, conference centre and new houses.
It is estimated that 175 jobs would be created by the 350 acre development, which would be managed by Celtic Manor, the company behind a resort in South Wales that hosted the 2010 Ryder Cup and 2014 NATO summit.
But there has been loud opposition, with thousands of people signing a petition against the plans, and Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood calling on her Labour Party colleagues at the council to abandon the scheme.
Now – ahead of what could be a crunch ‘extraordinary meeting’ of the council later this month, at which the project will be debated – Jim Anderson from the Nicklaus Joint Venture Group (pictured top) has conceded to West Kirby Today that they had “taken our eye off the ball” in engaging with local people about the project.
And he insisted they will be carrying out detailed consultation while drawing up a planning application, and want local people to input into the design of the site.
He also revealed:
- A year-long Environmental Impact Assessment is getting underway in March
- Up to half of the site will be given over to wildlife habitat
- They expect to submit a planning application in spring 2020
- If planning approval is granted, building work would begin immediately and the course could open in 2022
Here are his responses to some of the specific criticisms about the Golf Resort.
On opposition to the scheme
“It is a project literally for everyone in the area, there’s so much to enjoy – I find it difficult to know what you wouldn’t want from that. Celtic Manor in Newport started off with 70 bedrooms and it’s now 340 and they’re employing close on 400 people. This project is more about the hotel and the business and conferencing – only 10 percent of the business is golf. It’s leisure and what really attracted Celtic Manor [to Hoylake] was the fantastic beaches, all the watersports. Who knows what can happen here?
“Where the negativity comes in, I think, is through misinformation and the fact that people don’t think these facilities are going to be available for them when they are. The golf course, the clubhouse, the spa, the restaurant and the bar are all there for local people.
“All the facilities here, make no mistake about it – and this is what I can prove – is that we’re not for the elite. We’re not a Royal Liverpool…we’re a proprietary club. We don’t close our doors to anyone.”
On what will happen to golfers who use the existing municipal golf course
“The new municipal, which is for everyone, by contract, has index linked prices to the existing one. We’re contractually bound to seek approval from the council and we can only raise by as much as their other courses. So they are getting the only Nicklaus designed municipal course in the world.
“There’s one clubhouse for all. So they’re going to have one of the best clubhouses in the country and there’s no differentiation. [We’ve said] you guys are going to be the heart of the club. So the municipal club have already been told that the existing societies and groups and members will be exactly the same in the new course. They’ll have a brand new clubhouse which will have all the new facilities like a spa, the restaurants, the gymnasium, that they can use. And the more people that come in and use it, the more successful it will become.”
On the involvement of Jack Nicklaus
“Jack always asks about Hoylake. Because he knows Hoylake. And also for this reason: this is going to be probably one of the last golf courses certainly in Europe that he is going to be designing and he knows…that all of the best players in the world are going to be coming to that hotel….and they will be seeing Jack’s golf course – and he wants that, that’s a legacy.
“He knows this course will be special because, when he’s dead, he knows that all the best players in the world who will have heard of Jack Nicklaus will be staying at a Jack Nicklaus golf course when they come to play the Open at Royal Liverpool, and that’s special for him.”
On concerns about traffic congestion
“We’re responsible for delivering the [relief] road and there’s overhead power lines [which] we’re taking underground instead. The pylons cost £1 million a drop to take down and there’s five drops – so just the pylons are taking £5 million to get rid of. But to me they’re a blot on the landscape and that’s a big positive. That’s about £13 million just to provide the road and the power lines.”
On the 160 executive houses planned for the site
“The houses are the enabling development and make the whole scheme viable. We weren’t fixed on [housing] numbers at all. That wasn’t us – we had to give that to an independent accountancy firm who then stripped everything apart and endorsed it.”
He added that housing development makes up 4% of the total site.
On scepticism over the economic benefits
“This is a wealth creator. It’s a job creator. It’s a spend in the local community. The taxi driver’s pleased. The window cleaner’s pleased. £340,000 just on spend on local produce just for the food and beverage outlet.
“And that continually goes on. £1 million in rates which is going to the council to spend on whatever they want to spend it on at a time that they’re strapped for cash and having it taken away from them.
“This will year-on-year produce £1 million revenue, or thereabouts, to go back into the council. I think it’s a win-win situation.”
On what happens next
“I’m hoping that we can possibly be thinking about our planning application shortly after that 12 month period [of the Environmental Impact Assessment], so April/May 2020.
“We have to get cracking now. It has to move forward. From that perspective I’d like to see us on site immediately after it received planning permission. It’s quite possible that it could be in play, in use by the time the Open next comes to Royal Liverpool.”
- Members of Wirral Council will debate the Hoylake Golf Resort at an Extraordinary Meeting taking place at Wallasey Town Hall on Monday 25 February at 5pm