Businesses back Hoylake as councillors call to stop £200m resort

An extraordinary Wirral Council meeting will see different sides face off over the proposed £200m Celtic Manor and Jack Nicklaus resort at Hoylake, while a number of local business leaders have signalled their backing for the project.

The project, including a Celtic Manor-branded hotel, spa, and conference facilities as well as a championship golf course and 18-hole range, was first put forward in November 2016. Since then, Wirral Council has agreed to back the scheme with prudential borrowing of £26m, along with £600,000 to support geotechnical surveys.

Wirral Council signed a development agreement with developer NJVG the same month, with the council spending £600,000 on geotechnical reports and surveys to support the project.

However, it has come in for criticism from campaigners and councillors, with Cllrs Alan Brame and Pat Cleary putting forward a motion for debate at a council meeting in December.

An extraordinary council meeting has now been called for Monday 25 February with two motions against the proposed development: one from Cllrs Chris Blakeley and Gerry Ellis; and another from Cllrs Phil Gilchrist and Brame.

Blakeley and Ellis’ motion argues that while the council “does not have the power to demand or force the cabinet to drop this unwanted scheme in its entirety,” it should withdraw its support for the project based on “uncertainty, the massive public opposition, the financial risks to the taxpayer, and the harm that would be caused to Wirral’s green belt”.

Similarly, Gilchrist and Brame’s motion, titled “putting Wirral’s needs first instead of pipe dreams”, claimed it was “no longer reasonable to put stretched managerial and officer capacity into this golf resort project”.

The motion added: “Council remains concerned that this speculative development is still being put forward based on assumptions that no longer appear relevant at a time of economic uncertainty, growing concern about development in the green belt and greater recognition of the importance of ensuring future food supply in a period of climate change.”

A rival motion, put forward by council leader Phil Davies and Cllr Angie Davies, has come out in favour of the development. This said: “Council notes the concerns which have been expressed about the proposed Celtic Manor Resort in Hoylake.

“Council also notes the potential financial and economic benefits of the proposed scheme: including 300 jobs, apprenticeship opportunities, up to £40m in one-off payments and £1m to the Council in increased revenue every year to be invested in public services.

“Council believes it would be inappropriate to make a decision on this scheme before we have the full facts. We have only recently – within days – received the funding proposal from the developer, which is now under review.

“Council further believes it is important to review the details of the various feasibility studies which will assess the environmental and economic impact of the scheme and believes residents should be consulted on these details as part of a robust planning application.

“Council therefore agrees to ask for the relevant scrutiny committee to hold a special meeting to consider all aspects of the scheme once negotiations have reached a point where a clear proposition can be placed before members.”

The latter motion has been supported by a number of local businesses, which have signalled their backing for the Hoylake project.

These include Paul Askew, chairman of the Wirral Visitor Economy Board; Hoylake-based JD Engineering; UTS Gym, which overlooks the proposed site; and BT Local Business, which is based in Wirral.

Askew argued: “In terms of the borough’s future growth and tourism strategy, the Hoylake resort is an extremely positive move. It is an opportunity to welcome a new era to Wirral and one which we simply cannot afford to let pass us by.

“The resort will of course fly the flag for sport, but it will also create a world-class destination for businesses and tourists, which is something that we’re in desperate need of in order to keep moving forward.”

Earlier this month, NJVG’s Jim Anderson told Place North West the resort was “ready to go”, with the planning process due to get under way in the coming weeks.

Over the next 12 months during the environmental assessment impact process, the developer is also due to hold public consultation on the plans, before submitting an application around March 2020, with a start on site later in the spring or early summer, subject to planning approval.

Anderson added the scheme was “fully funded” with an aim to “start work the next day” if planning permission is secured.

Willmott Dixon has already been chosen as preferred contractor to build the Celtic Manor resort and the golf’s clubhouse. Other consultants working on the scheme include Hydrock and Grant Thornton. One of the site’s golf courses will be personally designed by Jack Nicklaus, with the other brought forward by Nicklaus Design Group.

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