The March planning meeting of Bolton Council has been put back from next week following a deluge of correspondence on the controversial plans by Peel to create a golf course and 1,000 houses at Hulton Park.
Earlier this week, Peel chairman John Whittaker issued a rare public statement ahead of the planning meeting that will decide the fate of the £240m project, under which Peel plans to bring a Ryder Cup-standard course and hotel with conferencing and spa facilities to the historic estate, along with securing outline consent for 1,000 homes.
The proposals have attracted dogged opposition, with protest group Hulton Estate Area Residents Together providing a rallying point.
A scheduled committee site visit took place this morning, but the committee meeting originally scheduled for 1 March has been postponed, with no new March date confirmed at this point.
A council spokesman told Place North West: “We’ve received a lot of representations up to and after the official close and the time can’t be found to go through it all, so the committee will be held later in March.”
Whittaker’s statement said: “Hulton Park is a crumbling treasure in desperate need of major investment. At Peel, we want to restore the park and build world-class golfing, tourism and community facilities, giving the area a real boost.
“The development will be at the heart of the local community, providing local jobs and training, community events and facilities, public nature trails and much needed new housing.
“I firmly believe that our vision for the park respects its heritage but will give it a new lease of life for the 21st century.”
Peel lodged a hybrid application last year, going for outline consent on housing and detailed planning for the rest of the scheme, which includes a hotel on the site of Hulton Hall, which was demolished in the 1950s.
The professional team includes architects Calderpeel and Leach Rhodes Walker, planner Turley, environmental planning and design specialist LUC, The Environmental Partnership and Aecom on transport. European Golf Design has designed the course itself.
Other facilities include a clubhouse and golf academy along with walking and cycling trails, and restoration work on the listed landscape of lakes and gardens. Two working farms will be affected, and there will be some demolition of existing buildings.
Peel’s proposals underwent two rounds of consultation in 2016 and further public exhibitions last year, but have failed to shake off HEART’s protests. The group has said that it has delivered more than 1.500 letters of objection.
The group has provided templates of objection letters, is active on social media and holds regular meetings regarding the 645-acre estate, which was bought by Peel in 2010.
Whittaker putting his name in the spotlight suggests that Peel sees this consent as a major challenge. In recent years, the rare occasions he has stepped forward include the revealing of the Ocean Gateway plans, which laid the way for planning bids at the likes of Mersey Waters and Port Salford; and as a vocal figurehead opposed to Manchester’s congestion charge plans.
His statement continued: “Our ambition, working alongside a wide range of partners, is for Hulton Park to host the Ryder Cup — one of the world’s biggest sporting events. A spectacle on this scale would showcase Bolton on a global stage and cement Greater Manchester’s position as the sporting capital of the UK.
“Our team at Peel Land & Property has listened carefully and worked hard to address infrastructure and environmental issues. I can promise that, if we are permitted to proceed with the project, Hulton Park will be a development that local people can be proud of.
“At Hulton Park, we want to create a new model for sustainable golf and tourism facilities. Rescuing it from decay is an amazing chance to invest in the future, creating new opportunities for young people and a positive legacy for future generations.”
Westhoughton Town Council is among the objectors, pointing out to Bolton in a latter last July that the borough has a five-year supply and that “there is no guarantee of the Ryder Cup”. However, neighbouring Wigan Council has expressed its support, with the caveat of transport plans being implemented.