Two Wirral Councillors have called for the council to pull its support of the proposed £200m Jack Nicklaus golf resort at Hoylake, arguing the development “looks increasingly unviable”, although leader Phil Davies said the local authority continues to back the plans.
The project, including a Celtic Manor-branded hotel, spa, and conference facilities as well as a championship golf course and 18-hole range, was put forward in November 2016 by developer Nicklaus Joint Venture Group.
Wirral Council signed a development agreement with NJVG the same month, with the council spending £600,000 on geotechnical reports and surveys to support the project.
Along with the golf course development, Story Homes was on board to deliver 160 homes as part of the scheme but is understood to be no longer involved. The preferred housebuilders for the site are now Redrow and PJ Livesey, with the land earmarked as one site that could be released from the Green Belt under Wirral’s upcoming Local Plan.
Although the project has a gross development value of £200m, and was expected to create around more than 350 jobs during construction and following completion, there has been some backlash against the project from Wirral Councillors.
A motion titled “Time to end the Hoylake Golf Course development” has been put forward by Cllr Allan Brame and seconded by Cllr Pat Cleary for debate at next week’s council meeting.
The motion follows a report to cabinet last month on the future provision of the borough’s golf courses, noting a downturn in golf course usage in Wirral.
The motion due to be debated next week states: “Given this gloomy assessment of current and future demand for golf facilities, council recognises that the proposed Celtic Manor development of Hoylake Golf Course looks increasingly unviable.
“Council now concludes that the access to prudential borrowing of £26m agreed in December 2017 poses an unacceptable risk to public funds, is no longer tenable or appropriate, and therefore requests that the leader and cabinet end all further use of council taxpayers’ money to support this scheme.”
The project had been championed by leader of the council Cllr Phil Davies, but with Davies announcing he would not stand for re-election in May next year, the project could lose support at the highest level of the council.
Last December, the council insisted it would not be allocating any additional money to the project aside from the £600,000 already committed in November 2016.
A planning application was set to be submitted this year but is yet to materialise; it was hoped the 18-hole municipal golf course would open in January 2020, followed by the hotel in March 2020, and the championship course in April 2021.
It is understood much of the delay in submitting a planning application is down to the level of surveys requested by Wirral Council, which argued full ecological and environmental surveys were needed before a planning application could be submitted.
In a statement to Place North West, Davies said: “Wirral Council is encouraged by recent progress from the developers behind the Hoylake Golf Resort. Celtic Manor – confirmed as the hotel, leisure and golf operator – are looking at Hoylake as the location of their first luxury leisure resort in the north, a scheme forecast to create hundreds of new jobs, attract thousands of visitors and millions of pounds of investment to Wirral.
“It is now for the joint venture between Celtic Manor, the Jack Nicklaus group and their partners to bring forward their plans and funding arrangements. Wirral Council remains supportive of this scheme to create a world class leisure destination in Hoylake and looks forward to the plans being presented for consultation so residents and businesses can have their say.
“As a local authority impacted by budget cuts and austerity, we are always interested in innovative and entrepreneurial ways to bring money into the borough to keep our frontline services going. Celtic Manor’s proposed Hoylake development is one of those ideas. As well as welcoming a blue-chip, globally-renowned organisation to our borough, we should also look carefully at opportunities to become a potential investor in the scheme to further benefit the residents of Wirral.”