Don’t Get Too Excited – The Beast Still Lives
The Society applauds the recent decision by the new Cabinet of Wirral Council not to loan their preferred Developer £26million for the Hoylake Golf Resort/Celtic Manor Resort project. However, we need to remind everyone that whilst it has taken a first important step towards distancing itself from this project, the project itself has not been stopped.
After the decision was taken, the Developers said: “we maintain our appetite to deliver the project within the specifications set forth in the Development Agreement and look forward to considering alternative funding options and to working with Wirral Council to bring this exciting project forward.”
We are aware the Developers could still then get private finance for the resort or could still find another financier to invest in the idea. They can also still put in a planning application and the Council’s Planning Committee could still vote to grant planning permission. The Council still have a Development Agreement with the Nicklaus Joint Venture Group and the Council could still decide to sell the land to the NJVG.
Scratching the Surface of a Development Agreement
To recap, Wirral Council under the leadership of Phil Davies entered into a Development Agreement with the NJVG to build a ‘resort’ project, subject to planning permission. This Development Agreement was kept deliberately hidden from the Wirral public, until the excellent independent journalist John Brace, managed to get parts of the Development Agreement released to the public domain after tenacious use of Freedom of Information laws.
A clause in the Development Agreement (6.10) gave the Council an option to apply for the funding to loan to the Developer, but it was not binding or a stipulation. Also, if the Council did become the financier for the developer, the Developer would agree to pay the Council an Arrangement Fee to borrow the money. Furthermore, as lender, the Council would also receive interest from the Developer, assuming the project was a success and they had a brisk return on their investment to pay back the loan.
Up until last week, this was the proposed route for the funding strategy but thanks to a wise decision by the new Cabinet who we hope are thinking more about raising money to regenerate Birkenhead and East Wirral, this option is no longer available to the NJVG.
Obviously, the thousands of people who have signed petitions against this development are hoping the new Council will make a move to terminate the agreement. However, the biggest stumbling block for the new Cabinet doing this is in the Development Agreement:
So, if the Council wish to terminate the Development Agreement, the NJVG would be within their rights to put together a legal case to sue for Breach of Contract, should they believe Wirral Council were in breach of any obligations made to the Developer in the Development Agreement.
That raises the questions such as, how much would it cost the NJVG to pursue a Breach of Contract case? Would potential damages outweigh the cost of legal action? Would they be looking to recover a symbolic amount regarding potential loss of earnings? Would they be seeking to recover money they had already invested in getting to the agreement stage? Would they be seeking recompense for money invested in site reports (if they have funded any)?
All questions for an expert in contract law – which we are certainly not!
At least at this stage, nobody is any the worse off as a result of signing a Loan Agreement, so we hope there are favourable grounds for the Council terminating this Development Agreement as soon as possible.
Another Chance to Show Your Support in Public
On Monday 15 July at 5pm, Wirral Council will hold an Extraordinary Meeting to discuss the future of the Celtic Manor Resort and the need for clarity from the Council for protecting the green belt under the Local Plan.
The meeting is to be held at Wallasey Town Hall in Brighton Street and there is to be a demonstration outside the Town Hall from 4pm to convey to councillors that the Celtic Manor Resort is not wanted. It is hoped councillors will be sympathetic and they will be allowed to vote freely on this highly controversial plan which belongs to the legacy of the previous Cabinet, rather than be forced to follow the party Whip.
All are welcome to gather outside the Town Hall to show support for an end to the Celtic Manor Resort and its flood plain development.
Whatever the outcome of Monday’s meeting, The Wirral Society will continue to work with the ‘Stop the Hoylake Golf Resort’ group, to try and bring this ill-conceived project to an end.