Hoylake Golf Resort
David Ball, assistant director Major Growth Projects, gave a brief update on the Hoylake Golf Resort plans. He stated that at the Extraordinary Council Meeting on 25 February 2019, the outcome was to take funding and phasing plans to scrutiny committee, who would then make recommendations to Cabinet. There was currently no timescale and was aware that there would be a new leader after the local elections in May. A referral will be made to cabinet in July.
Cllr Burgess-Joyce stated that some councillors had tried to vote against the project at the last Council meeting but were defeated. He asked where does the decision go after Cabinet?
David Ball clarified that the decision stops at Cabinet as an executive decision.
The Chair highlighted that a budget of £26m had been supported by the Cabinet and asked how much money has been spent on this project so far.
David Ball explained that he did not have an exact figure to hand but that it was in the last Cabinet report. Money had been put aside for consultancy support but it had not yet been spent.
The Chair opened questions up to the public.
A Stephanie Miller asked for an update on the Hoylake Golf Course funding and phasing plan and to know if there was a financial clause in the plan to pay compensation to the Nicklaus Joint Venture Group and Celtic Manor should the council decide to pull out of the scheme.
The Chair asked for reassurance that there are no severance costs associated with the Hoylake golf course contract.
David Ball explained that the council has entered into a development agreement with Celtic Manor and if the council were to break that agreement then they could be open to legal action. He stated that these were standard terms and conditions and covered breaches of condition for both sides. He also stated that he was developing an agreement between the council and the Nicklaus Joint Venture Group.
The Chair stated that answers to these questions should be made available to all.
A Ken Barnes asked 2 questions:
1. In recent media articles and on their website, the Hoylake Golf Resort developers have stated that the Golf Resort Link Road will not be funded from the public purse.
Yet in the report to cabinet of December 2017, it was stated that the Link Road would be funded either by a grant from the Liverpool City Region or by the sale of the publicly owned land for the Resort. Please could you clarify how the Golf Resort Roads will be funded?
2. Please can you provide an update on the proposal to “off load” municipal golf courses to private management companies. How many companies have shown an interest in taking on the courses and when are they likely to be transferred to the “private companies”?
David Ball could not give an answer on the second question as he is not working on the proposals for municipal golf courses.
David Ball stated that there was various opportunities for funding the link road including Liverpool Region or using other funding. He did not know why Nicklaus Joint Venture Group stated that it would not be publicly funded.
The chair asked for clarity on the number of proposed properties to be built on the golf course.
David Ball confirmed that the current plan included 160 executive houses and 40 apartments equalling 200 dwellings in total.
A lady in the audience mentioned that the current plan for the golf resort included a 90 bedroom hotel and stated that the Celtic Manor golf resort in Wales started off with less but now has a much larger capacity. She wanted to know if the planned 90 bed hotel at the Wirral resort was just for the first phase and if it was likely to be expanded in future.
David Ball stated that at the current time there were no plans to expand.
A man in the audience asked if the 40 apartments planned for the golf resort were likely to fall under affordable housing rules.
David Ball stated that the council has different affordable housing policies in different parts of the borough and that the 40 apartments at the golf resort are being built specifically for golfers.
A Doug Johnston stated that other Jack Nicklaus golf clubs have declining memberships. He suggested that Wirral Council should establish a golf tourism office which would generate more money than the current proposals.
The Chair stated that there is a tourism team within the council that works hard for the borough.
A lady in the audience commented that AMY had done a consultation on the road and approximately £1.5m had been spent on this. She queried what right the Cabinet had to make executive decisions. She also stated that the land that the golf resort is being proposed to be built on is a flood plane and the resort could exacerbate flooding.
David Ball stated that the Nicklaus group would be undertaking studies on flooding as well as other environmental and ecological issues and these studies would all be open to scrutiny by the council. He also noted that the Cabinet is the executive power of the council and therefore was the only group that could make executive decisions.
Cllr Ellis expressed his frustration at the project and suggested that everyone should work together to stop it.
A Graham Wilson stated that the decision by full council cannot effect Cabinet decisions.
The Chair clarified that 56 out of 66 councillors have no direct say on whether this project goes ahead or not. But that if the Executive saw the full weight of opposition then the Cabinet would be effected.
Cllr Whittingham (a cabinet member) stated that the Cabinet is made up of elected members and that all Cabinet meetings are held in public. He stated that it was the Cabinets duty to look at all evidence before making a decision.
A man in the audience asked which scrutiny committee would look at the golf resort.
David Ball stated it would be the Business Oversite and Scrutiny committee.
A Rob Wilkinson stated that he understood that the council will be financing the golf resort with £26m and queried what would happen to that money if the company went bust.
David Ball stated that the council is looking at loaning the developers to part fund the site and the money would be secured against the value of the homes to be built. He stated that Nicklaus Joint Venture Group are the preferred developer and have identified a number of partners including Celtic Manor and Red Row. Terms and Conditions being used are standard for this sort of development.
The Chair asked how the council would retrieve the £26m if the houses are not built on the site.
David Ball stated that it would be a breach of the commercial agreement.
Cllr Canon stated that she has spoken to greenbelt groups and has listened. She stated that the vote at Council was not meaningful and wanted to make clear that she is listening to those opposed to the golf resort.
The Chair proposed a statement from the committee and it was agreed (8-1 abstention) that: “This committee disagrees with the ongoing development of the Hoylake Celtic Manor golf resort and calls on the Cabinet to change its mind and end this development”
The Chair recommended that the public keep the pressure up in order to affect change.