Hoylake Golf Resort – What’s in the Small Print?

What Are Wirral Council Not Telling Us?

Image of magnifying glass over paper contract

We are still seeking to clarify the situation regarding penalty clauses in the Development Agreement Wirral Council entered into in 2016 with the Jack Nicklaus Joint Venture Group (NJVG).

Under a Freedom of Information request, the Council initially refused to publish the Development Agreement. Subsequent to a complaint to the regulator ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) and a threat of a First Tier Tribunal, the Council published part of the Development Agreement, although much of it was redacted citing the reason that it was “commercial and confidential”.

Since the May 2019 local elections, when politically the Council became ‘No Overall Control’ we have learnt that the Development Agreement contains penalty clauses which could, potentially, cost the Council between £15 million and £20 million, should they pull out of the agreement.

This came as a huge shock to both the public and most of the Councillors who were unaware that the previous Council Leader, and his Cabinet, had seemingly signed up to these penalty clauses in secret.

Indeed, on several occasions, the previous Council Leader Phil Davies, had reassured Councillors that signing that Agreement would not expose the Council to any risk.

A report to the Cabinet dated 7th November 2016, stated the Council retains at its absolute discretion, the ability to withdraw from the project should the Funding Strategy not prove to be acceptable to the Council.”

Furthermore, at a Business and Overview Scrutiny Committee Call-In meeting to discuss the Development Agreement, a senior Council official stated if the project fell at the funding and viability phase then the money that the council has invested would not be recoverable and similarly the money that the NJVG has already invested would not be recoverable.”

The Funding Strategy was finally submitted to the Council earlier this year, several years behind the original programme date. Part of this Strategy included the Council lending the NJVG £26million at preferential borrowing rates. In July 2019, both the Business Overview Scrutiny Committee and then the Cabinet unanimously voted to reject this proposal loan NJVG the £26million. The Cabinet has now recommended the scheme be privately funded on the open market rather than through Council borrowing.

Should the NJVG obtain private financial backing they can then submit a planning application. However, as the development would breach the Wirral Green Belt with a 160 + housing development, it would normally be deemed ‘inappropriate’, so the Developers will have to prove that ‘very special circumstances’ exist before planning permission could be granted. We can see no case for any exceptions to be made on such a proposal, either by the Council or, on Appeal, by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate.

Wirral Council has also recently declared a ‘Climate Change Emergency’ and building such a resort and a housing estate on a flood plain would make a mockery of the Council’s intentions to mitigate against future increasing extreme weather events. The NJVG has dubious financial history. This includes bankruptcy of their construction company which built the housing development associated with their golf ‘resort’ in Llanelli where a promised Hilton Hotel was never built. Therefore, we are optimistic that no financial institutions will be willing to invest in such a risky project at Hoylake.

May 2019 Roundup

May 2019 has been quite eventful for us, what with local elections and the continued collective fight we are supporting to protect Wirral’s greenbelt. We also have the Summer edition of ‘Wirral Matters’ available for download in PDF form from our Wirral Matters Archives page on this website.

Out with the old boss, but what does it mean for the greenbelt?

Phil Davies, ex-Leader of Wirral Council, looking disappoinrted with the result of the local council election results in 2019
Disappointed? No more than we were with the persistence of the Hoylake ‘Golf Resort’ idea or Wirral Council’s confusing greenbelt policies. Stunned ex-Council Leader Phil Davies, election night, May 2019.

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” as the song says about not being fooled again! Following the loss of overall control of Wirral Council by the ruling Labour party and the pre-election resignation announcement of the outgoing Leader, Phil Davies, we wait to find out what new Council Leader, Pat Hackett, has to say about Wirral’s greenbelt. Notably, we are concerned about the unpopular Hoylake ‘Golf Resort’ project, an idea seemingly only supported by the ex-Council Leader.

Continue reading “May 2019 Roundup”

A Letter To The Wirral Globe

It’s all getting a bit confusing!

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Thanks to the regular press releases by Wirral Council to Wirral’s local press sending mixed messages about Wirral’s Greenbelt, our Chairman, Rod Tann, has sent the following the letter to The Wirral Globe. Hopefully the Wirral Globe will publish our letter, but even if it doesn’t, we would urge all those concerned about Wirral Council’s mixed-message media campaign about Green Belt policy to raise questions in the press. It seems our trust is being played in a confusing game of Green Belt ping-pong between Council executives Phil Davies & Eric Robinson with the people of Continue reading “A Letter To The Wirral Globe”

Hoylake Golf Resort Public Meeting

Margaret Greenwood MP Raises The Issue Wirral Council Are Reluctant To Address

As our members will already know, we are vehemently opposed to our council leader’s seemingly unstoppable quest to foist upon us, his project to build a ‘Golf Resort’ plus 200 ‘luxury’ houses on North West Wirral’s Green Belt. Rod Tann, our Chairman, wrote to Councillor Phil Davies in June asking many questions about his project, for which we are still awaiting a reply. In the meantime, the ‘Stop The Golf Resort’ group have stepped up their action to help spread the word about the Golf Resort plans to a wider demographic – with results.

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Our Chairman Rod Tann, being interviewed on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, expressing our concerns about why building has still yet to begin on thousands of Wirral Waters Project homes, which would lessen the threat to Wirral’s Green Belt.

As well as setting up a Facebook page and a Twitter account, they have been out and about Wirral collecting signatures against the development and have met with local MP, Margaret Greenwood to further reinforce her awareness about the public’s continuing opposition to the scheme. This opposition has now escalated after it has been revealed the council want to spend £50,000 of council tax payer’s money on a transport study for a new link road for Golf Resort traffic, as if enough public money hasn’t been spent already! Furthermore, the opposition to the scheme has attracted the interest of the BBC who featured it on their North West edition of the Sunday Politics show, in which they interviewed people opposing the scheme including our Chairman. Nobody from Wirral Council appeared on the programme though they did make a statement supporting the idea for tourism.

Having assessed the public feeling, Margaret Greenwood has organised a public meeting about the proposed Hoylake Golf Resort which we are hoping a council representative will attend to answer questions. Seeing as this is very much an Executive leadership project, we would expect no one less than Council Leader, Phil Davies to attend and answer questions about something that he clearly holds as a personal ambition for the area.

The meeting will take place at Hoylake Community Centre, Hoyle Road, Hoylake, CH47 3AG on Saturday 9 December between 9:30am and 11am. We sincerely hope Councillor Davies will be in attendance to explain why we should be as excited as he is about sacrificing our Green Belt for what is at the end of the day, a political initiative.