This is the formal record of the meeting.

 

HOYLAKE GOLF RESORT – Public Meeting. 
URC Hall, Meols Drive, West Kirby. 
29 March 2016

 

Present – Margaret Greenwood M.P., Cllr Gerry Ellis, Cllr Geoffrey Watt. Approximately 108 members of the public.
Apologies – Cllr Green, Cllr Hale, Cllr Blakely.
WMBC officers had been invited to attend the meeting but were unable to be present.

Introduction : The convenor of the meeting, John Hutchinson, having introduced himself and outlined his experience with three similar enterprises, explained that he had called the meeting in response to a general concern that there was very little hard information in the public domain.  It was felt that, despite the public consultations of Novemeber 2015, too many questions relating to the proposal remained unanswered.  It was hoped that the meeting would provide an opportunity to air some of these concerns.  A record would be kept of the proceedings and Mr Hutchinson promised that any questions raised would be forwarded to the WMBC officers concerned.

 

WHY HAVE A GOLF RESORT?
Question : What is the main objection to the resort?

Response : 
i) Hoylake would not benefit from the development. Spending by visitors to the resort would be kept ‘on Resort’ and was unlikely to benefit the locality.
ii) Local roads would be unable to cope with the volume of traffic generated both during and after construction.

 

Question : Why is WMBC obsessed with golf?  Why has so much money been spent on consultation and in promoting the scheme?
Comment :  WMBC has tried without success to sell its municipal courses and several local clubs are facing closure.  Golf, as a sport, is in decline and is exclusive, which WMBC should not be seen as supporting.  WMBC has declined to comment on consultancy.
General discussion on decline in golf, the number of golf courses for sale etc. For information see http://www.golfcourses4sale.co.uk/golfcoursesforsale

and numerous other websites that list golf courses for sale.

 

CONSULTATION
General Discussion : Concern that 12 months was a very long time and that ‘drop in sessions’ did not constitute adequate consultation with the public.

Comment by Cllr Gerry Ellis, Ward Councillor :  The answers to these questions will only come when we have detailed plans.  Officers are in the ‘purdah situation’ of the pre-election period so can give no answers at present.  Cllr Ellis added that his actions would reflect the opinion of local residents:  he would oppose the scheme, If that was what was required by his Ward.  He felt the whole issue was a long way off in the future and recommended that the action we should take was to "wait-and-see".

 

Comment : Council had not answered questions before the purdah period.
Comment on public opinion.  In 2004 WMBC published a ‘Masterplan’ for Hoylake and West Kirby, one part of which included the proposals for the golf resort.  Of the 300 people who attended a public meeting held to discuss the issue, 48 people returned the questionnaire provided:  only 3 people said they ‘strongly agreed’ with the proposal and 13 people said they ‘agreed’, scarcely wholehearted support.
Comment : The public consultation process has been poor having provided information of value little beyond what had been published in newspapers.
Comment : Margaret Greenwood MP said she would continue to look into local issues but had to ask WMBC for infromation.
Comment re time-scale : "Mr Ellis has said we might need to wait 12-18 months for detailed plans to emerge. I understand that when these plans are published the general public only have three weeks to respond. This is a real concern."
Comment on consultation : The council’s questions on the proposal need proper analysis – many of those who were in favour in principle had serious reservations. Public comments on the proposal can be read here.


None of the comments posted has received a reply.
Comment: WMBC is obliged to conduct a proper consultation with full public participation.
Comment : There should there be a proper paper consultation – many people do not have access to the internet or have problems completing questionnaires on line. 

 

ECONOMIC BENEFITS

Question : What is a golf resort?  Why do we want to have any more?
Response : It would be a championship style course – many people travel to play on such courses and stay overnight so that they can play on more than one day.  Hence the hotel. They stay on resort and have no incentive to leave.  JHH thanked this person for that remark.
Comment :  WMBC has not responded to requests for value of economic benefits to to Hoylake.

 

EMPLOYMENT
Question : Local young people should have employment.  How many jobs would the scheme provide and how secure would these be?

Response : Approximately 170 jobs were promised but it was unlikely that all these would be sourced locally, particularly at a managerial level. 

 

GREEN BELT, AMENITY & ECOLOGY

Question re Localism Bill. An individual from Knowsley asked if we had heard of the Localism Bill and Neighbourhood Plans.
Response by Neil Parry, Green Belt spokesman, Wirral Society. Hoylake has already produced a draft Neighbourhood Plan which is currently with the inspector. If approved it will go to a referendum and will be adopted if 50% plus one of those voting on the plan vote for it.  The only ‘project’ outlined in the plan is that for the Golf Resort.  The neighbourhood Development Plan can be read here.

Comment on golf courses and wildlife. English Nature urges golf courses to support wild life.  Green keepers will never be encouraged to do anything to jeopordise wild life. 
Comment :  Golf courses use six-times more ptro-chemicals as fertiliser than farmers and also more as herbicides and herbicides.
Comment. If the proposed development on Green Belt land is passed it will set a precedent and more and more Green Belt will come under threat across the Nation.
Comment : If the proposed luxury housing does not get passed, the whole project will flounder.
Response : Housing is essential for funding the scheme. A major concern would be the failure of the developer. Despite his admirable track record this is still a possibility.  If the scheme fails, the land would be available for house building without any protection afforded by Green Belt status.
Comment.  Is this Council's combined plan with Developer, to let the resort proposal flounder so that houses can be built with associated huge increase in land value?
Comment : WMBC appears to be ‘giving’ the land to the developer.
Comment on hedgerows : Hedgerows on the proposed site have been savagely ‘trimmed.’
Question on Green Belt.  If Green Belt land is released can other land be reassigned as a substitute?
Comments on Green Belt.  It is the public's duty to do all that it can to preserve Green Belt for future generations. There is no other available land on Wirral for designation as Green Belt.

 

HOUSING
Question : A questioner, who lives and works in Hoylake and had attended the public consultation, said that he had understood from the engineer making the presentation that the construction and sale of expensive housing was essential to the funding of the Golf Resort.  He was led to believe that the scheme would include at least 150 high class houses, more than currently stand along and off Meols Drive, and that these were likely to be intended for 2/3 car households. What thought had WMBC given to the impact of the considerable increase in the level of traffic that was likely to ensue?
General Discussion : The number and location of the houses was not at all clear from the  illustrative map provided by WMBC, which is subject to amendment with little meaning.  WMBC had not answered questions about its consideration of traffic loads and congestion.
Question : Was the golf course a diminishing element of the scheme? Was it just a ploy to build houses?
Response : The intention is to build 150 luxury homes with no 'affordable' housing.
Comment : Margaret Greenwood MP said that she had had concerns relating to the description of the scheme and the information provided on the 3D images.  In January she had written to the Director of Regeneration and Planning saying that what was needed was a plan showing the footprint of the houses, roads etc. and that this should be made available to the public.  She had been told that the Joint Venture Group had provided ‘indicative plans’ but that more work was needed before detailed plans could be produced.  These should be available in 12 months’ time when there would be further ‘drop in sessions’.
Comment.  WMBC had not answered questions about the impact upon the skyline of the hotel and ancilliary buildings nor that of the houses upon the landscape.
Questions on housing. Will the end result of all this be that we are definitely going to have houses built and have no power to stop them? Is it defeatist to say that the houses are inevitable? Is the whole thing cut and dried?

 

INFRASTRUCTURE & PUBLIC SERVICES
Comment :  We need to know who is responsible for the provision of infrastructure. The provision of extra utilities etc. will place an additional cost on the public purse, again we the Council Tax-payers and consumers of utilities will pay.
Question. If housing is to be expanded how will existing services cope?  The local medical centres are stretched to capacity.  The schools are full.  Children in our own area cannot get into local schools.  The existing infrastructure and facilities are already inadequate for the current population. What is planned?
Comment.  WMBC had not answered questions regarding early consideration of impact upon local services such as schools and doctors.

 

IRRIGATION
Comment : A member of Heswall Golf Club, with many years of experience in the golf industry queried the concerns regarding the volume of material requiring transporting to and from the site during construction, suggesting that nothing would need to be removed. He also suggested that the site would be sown with appropriate grasses and that water would be drawn from the lakes and the courses' drainage system. He pointed out that increasingly the golf industry was keen to make its sites attractive to wildlife.

Comment :  It was stated that abstraction from water courses is not allowed.  (Note :  Abstraction of water from a surface or groundwater source and impoundment of water require licences can be read here)

 

PLANNING & LAND OWNERSHIP
Question :  Who owns the land?
Response : The majority of the land is owned by WMBC with three vital parcels in the ownership of West Kirby Charity and others 
(Note provided post-meeting. According to Land Registry, other parcels are owned jointly by Ian Gallagher, Linda Arrowsmith and Susan Gallagher who have a Lock Out and Confidentiality Agreement with Nicklaus Joint Venture Group Ltd.)
General discussion on planning issues, Fire Station, Girtrell Court and Fracking. WMBC do not seem to have responded to concerns expressed on these issues. The golf resort is likely to go the same way. 
Comment : All the issues discussed tonight are obviously matters of concern but not necessarily planning related. The major planning objection to the proposal is that it is for development on Green Belt land.
Comment :  WMBC, as land-owner and Planning Authority and Appelant, has a conflict of interest.
Comment : People concerned about the issue should view the BBC 4 documentary ‘The Dark Side of the Greens’, which shows how developers, often working with local officials, are using golf as a smokescreen to build massive luxury resorts with negative effects on the local environment.
Comment : The Planning proposal requires an Environmental Impact Assessment. 

 

ROADS & TRAFFIC
Comment :  Wards to south and east of Hoylake will suffer greatest from construction and visitor traffic and traffic to and from homes.

Comment : A member of Heswall Golf Club, with many years of experience in the golf industry queried the concerns regarding the volume of material requiring transporting to and from the site during construction, suggesting that nothing would need to be removed. He also suggested that the site would be sown with appropriate grasses and that water would be drawn from the lakes and the courses' drainage system. He pointed out that increasingly the golf industry was keen to make its sites attractive to wildlife.
Comment : The scheme was likely to generate an additional 1500 vehicles per day on local roads that do not have the capacity to cope with this increase in traffic.  Local roads are not built to accommodate constructors' HGVs.  Some road 'improvements' are likely with related Copulsory Purchase Orders.
Comment :  WMBC has not answered questions seeking its early consideration of traffic load.
Question : Who will pay?  Much concern was expressed regarding who will pay for the roads.   Because Developer is not responsible, WMBC, i.e. we the Council Tax-payers, will be liable.

 

SUPPLIES
Comment : Local food producers would be unlikely to benefit.  Supplies for the resort would be purchased from the lowest cost, National providers.

 

FUTURE ACTIONS
General discussion on the future of the campaign. 
1) Because WMBC has developed a resistance to emailed comments and questions from a limited number of individuals, it was decided to form a committee and spread the load among several people in the hope of getting responses.  
2) WMBC must be told that there are objections to the scheme and that it must address our concerns.  
3) Public are focussed not only on golf but have grave concerns for impact on nearby SSSIs, the implications of climate change, the need to look after our eco-systems long after we are gone, for traffic on the restricted roads of the neighbourhood arising from the high number of constructors' HGVs and visitor and service vehicles to the Resort and houses and the loss of Green Belt with associated loss of amenity and biodiversity on a nationally and inter-nationally highly regarded wildlife area.

 

General discussion as to how to get the message across.  Suggestions included paper petitions, airing objections on local radio, using the complaints procedure, writing letters and lobbying councillors and our MP. The local MP has to represent everyone.  More people have objected by signing the petition than approved the scheme as part of the WMBC consultation.

 

Motion : It was suggested that the meeting should vote on its concerns. On an overwhelming show of hands two resolutions were passed.
1) Everyone at the meeting has serious concerns for the implications of the proposed Golf Resort caused by the lack of information provided at the public consultation, which must be addressed by WMBC before the Planning Application is received.
2) There is concern for the proposal to build a resort on Green Belt land including construction of luxury housing.

COMMITTEE formed charged with

1) To make the Residents and Businesses of North Wirral aware of the existence of the Out of Town, Hoylake Golf Resort proposal; and

2) The impacts on Green Belt farmland and surrounding Neighbourhoods.