Hoylake Golf Course

Hoylake’s £200m golf resort ‘ready to go’ as contractor joins team

Charlie Schouten

The developer behind the project has pledged environmental improvements will be at the heart of its proposals as it prepares to start the planning process, with Willmott Dixon on board to deliver the site’s Celtic Manor resort.

Speaking to Place North West, Jim Anderson of developer Nicklaus Joint Venture Group, said the scheme was “fully funded” with an aim to “start work the next day” if planning permission is secured.

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.

Anderson said the next step would be to start the Environmental Impact Assessment process, which is likely to take a year. This will inform the golf course’s design in terms of its impact on the landscape and wildlife habitats; the land is also entirely designated as green belt.

“The EIA will give us a lot of detail concerning any flooding issues, importantly, what species we’re dealing with, so the golf course can be designed to enhance their habitat,” he said.

“Quite frankly that isn’t going to be difficult, because the habitat at the moment is generally farmland and poor grade farmland at that.

“We have a great opportunity here, we think, when we fully understand the species we’re dealing with, to develop a golf course that will be almost purpose-designed to encourage those species to be successful, with up to 50% of the land to be dedicated to wildlife habitat.

“We think we can demonstrate very strongly and robustly that we are improving the habitat here, not destroying it.”

Next steps

Over the next 12 months during the EIA 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 also confirmed Story Homes was no longer involved with the housing element of the project, which covers about 4% of the site. Redrow is now on board as the site’s housebuilder, although Anderson said the partner for the apartments was yet to be agreed; PJ Livesey has been rumoured to be involved.

Machynys Golf Course

NJVG previously developed the Machynys resort in Wales

The change in housebuilder has led to a rejigged funding plan for the site, which will have to be resubmitted to Wirral Council for approval. However, Anderson reiterated that the project is fully funded and will not require any further public money to get under way.

The political landscape in Wirral is also set to change with leader of the council Phil Davies due to step down ahead of local elections in the summer. Davies has been one of the project’s main supporters, arguing it would “create a world-class leisure destination” in Hoylake.

Other councillors have previously criticised the Hoylake project, with a motion calling to put a halt to the scheme put forward by Cllr Allan Brame and seconded by Cllr Pat Cleary at a meeting in December. This followed a report to cabinet in November on the future provision of the borough’s golf courses, noting a downturn in golf course usage in Wirral.

The motion argued: “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.”

Political change

Asked whether the elections would impact the development, Anderson said: “Hopefully we won’t be used as a political item one way or another. It’s important for us to get out to the people to understand what their concerns are; we have a year of planning where we can look at those concerns and hopefully address them, and a lot of that will be when they understand the true nature of the project.

“The doors of the golf course are very much open. You don’t have to be a member to come into the clubhouse to have a coffee or have a pint or use the restaurants; it’s there for everyone. It’s a misconception that this is a playground for the rich and only they can use it, and frankly, the business model wouldn’t work if we didn’t get engagement with the local population.”

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.

The golf resort will be NJVG’s fourth development of its type.

Your Comments

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This one, I suspect, will go down in the annals of planning and consultation history.

Let’s be honest, the starting point is hardly propitious: a fractured political landscape; huge opposition locally amongst prosperous and connected people; low unemployment in the immediate area; falling demand for the core product; and the scheme’s key promoter edged out by hard-left Corbynites, for whom all this is doubtless just a filthy capitalist plot.

File under ‘Good luck with that one, pal.’

For my part: get it built and let’s have the jobs and rateable income. It’s low-grade farmland and if they get the landscaping right then there’s plenty of room for species diversification. Right now it’s grazing land, a mono-culture that could sustain so much more wildlife. One to watch…

By Sceptical

Reinforces the ‘golf coast destination’ I guess, and Hoylake is only 20 minutes on Merseyrail to Liverpool so the hotel should do well anyway.

By Roscoe

I quite like the look of this project. The land they are building upon is low-grade stuff. I could see this and the cinema project providing a real boost to Hoylake. It also starts hitting those pesky government housing targets.

By Chris

Surprised to see the positive comments above (with which I agree). Time to speak up against the vocal letter writing nimby brigade. You know, the ones with the time to spare if I can say that!

This scheme could bring many ecological, environmental and economic benefits to the local area. Take off your prejudiced anti development glasses off and give it some thought. Help the council and developers shape this great opportunity. We need more homes and accessible jobs (direct and indirect) in what is currently unsustainable commuterville.

Stay brave Wirral BC.

By Speak Up

It’s a great proposal, get it built.

By Anonymous

Build it and they will come.

By Same Old Housebuilder Bashing

More “misinformation” from the developers. They keep saying it’s low grade agricultural land often enough and people believe it. It’s productive farmland and studies from the soil association and Cranfield University show much is good quality farmland. And it WILL requite more public funding. The new link road is to be funded by £17 million of public money

By CJS

If environmental improvements are at the heart of the scheme then the client has appointed a landscape architect to lead the masterplan? If so, they should be named. If not then one should be appointed.

By Adam Ash

Is there going to be a municipal along side the private course, and what happens to all the members who play there at present?

By Liverbird

It sounds great my great uncle,s career stared here, Fred haskins go for it

By P. A. Hazler

The land is green belt and is not low grade. It supports important bird species who overwinter on the Wirral. A manicured golf course which uses pesticides and herbicides are not conducive to wild life of any kind. There will be a lot of hard standing, new road and housing going on and the lighting, noise and disruption of the area will impact the migratory pattern of our birds perhaps forever. The people of Hoylake and beyond have expressed their overwhelming opposition to this scheme, and to namecall them as nimbys is losing the argument. People Wirral wide not just in Hoylake and West Kirby have stated their opposition to this scheme – it appears that the leadership of the Council is choosing not to listen. We don’t need a sham “consultation” conducted by the Developers, we already know what this scheme is about: Housebuilding and profit for the developer. Alternative schemes have been put forward to the Council which demonstrate that both jobs, environmental protections and enhancement and economic sustainability can be achieved through these schemes, and these have been ignored. I rest my case

By Prue Stothard

Thank you for publishing the comments of Jim Anderson from the Nicklaus Joint Venture Group.

By not having a website, he does not allow individuals to comment or criticise the proposal. Why? Of what is he afraid? Perhaps a website with contact address would allow local people greater engagement with the project and with the developer?

In 2008, an hotel was promised for Machynys but there is no sight nor sound of its being built. Why? Because the land is subject to flooding in exactly the same as it is for the Hoylake site.

We do not have confidence in public consultation involving our Council because it does not work. The promised analysis of the 2016 drop-ins continues awaited. We took time to let Council know how we felt but it has failed to do likewise. Council said that the proposal received support for the project by 2 to 1. But, this is only because the “doubtful” and “uncommitted” were included with the “supportive” votes. Alternatively, it could be said that the proposal received no support by 2 to 1. A three question survey is the worst possible. Council has my own analysis of the published survey responses, which tell a different story, but has failed to respond or deny.

Will NJVG conducts its consultation in a similar one-sided manner? Just like the tango, it takes two to consult.

In December 2016, the Liverpool Echo asked 13 questions of our Council that have yet to be answered.

Let us be under no illusions. The developer Nicklaus Joint Venture Group has no track record in any field of business being a shell company with more liabilities than assets. Anderson is wrong to say that they have delivered similar sites. The project managers at Machynys were Sawtrees. Jim Anderson is not listed as a director of The Celtic Manor Resort Limited. When house-building at the resort was completed, the developer was liquidated leaving vast sums owing to local contractors.

The proposal is not for two new championship golf courses: it is for one together with a replacement for the Municipal course. As we know Council is attempting to sell those other courses that it owns because of falling interest in the game. Have likely prospective owners come forward? Are houses planned for those little used golf course just as they are and were for other courses around the country all of which now have houses on them?

We have no faith in an Environmental Impact Assessment funded by the developer. We have no way of ensuring the independence of the assessor. Likewise, we have no faith in any assessment of impact on traffic or, for example, business and private life funded by the developer. There are two reports made by Jones Lang LaSalle and Capita Symonds funded by our Council that cast grave doubts upon the viability of the golf resort, which we note has become a leisure resort no doubt due to falling participation in golf. The Council-funded reports are dated 2005 and 2006. It would be of value to see what the current opinions are of such ventures taking into account the site’s isolation from the Nation’s motorway and railway systems and commercial passenger generated air hubs. Council should have spent money on up-to-date assessments rather than on-site survey works that the developer would have done in normal circumstances.

Comparing the Hoylake site with a one to the North of London of similar geology but much smaller being required for just a golf club, approximately 50,000 of the heaviest HGVs will be required to visit and then return taking away unsuitable ground for the construction of houses, hotel, service roads, irrigation ponds. Then to this traffic must be added that of the constructors and when finished that of vehicles servicing the resort, bringing in and taking away its visitors and for those who will live there including their service vehicles such as bin lorries and online purchased deliveries.

The question “How will our local lanes cope before and after construction?” must be asked and answered. I am glad that I will be totally unaffected by any of this.

So much of the land is unsuitable for the proposal that it will have to be taken away during which time, the wildlife will be dispersed, probably, for ever but, advisedly, for a long time before recovery. There is little point in allowing up to half of the site being given over to wildlife habitat. Do voles, birds and waterfowl read finger-posts that say “This way to the habitat that you have lived on for 10,000 years but lost because of construction work”?

If an Environmental Impact Assessment takes one year, then how may the developer submit a planning application in spring 2020? Would not better data be accrued over a twenty-four month period to measure the number of returns after several seasons?

The Machynys resort took three years to build not two years as implied by the report.

Many more jobs could be created by Council if it were to spend in the Wirral Chamber of Commerce, etc the same amounts of money spent upon this developer.

To build on our Green Belt is anathema to us. We love our Green Belt and do not want an evergreen, fertiliser, weed killer invested golf course built upon it.

Response to the comments of Jim Anderson.
1.The resort is only for those who can afford to play, eat and drink there. It is not for everyone in the area. It is for holiday-makers and for those more able to afford the prices of a 4 or 5* location.
2.It will take trade, especially in hospitality, away from Market Street, Hoylake and other main streets of our villages. Businesses such as a leisure resort need profit to survive. There are two sources of profit for this venture, visitors and local, both of which have to be maximised.
3.Talk of beaches and watersports does not impress. The purpose of an all-inclusive resort is precisely what its name implies: everything that the holiday-maker requires is to be found on site. Profit can be maximised for a leisure resort only by ensuring that its visitors do not stray to see what the opposition has to offer.
4.As the hotel and leisure business grows, which is what Anderson says he wants, then how will our already busy country lanes cope with increased traffic?
5.Mr Anderson say that he can prove something about the facilities. Then, Mr Anderson, please do so? No words, just evidence.
6.The developer is “contractually bound to seek approval from the council and can only raise by as much as their other courses.” But, we know that Council intends selling off its other courses. By which courses will prices be judged if Council has none.
What will happen if the new Municipal course fails to attract players in the same fashion as those Council wants to sell? Will it be sold for house building?
7.Will Jack Nicklaus be the designer? Or, does “Nicklaus design” mean that someone in the office will be the designer?
8.My own experience of golf and 4 and 5* locations is not the same as Mr Anderson expects for his holiday-making clients and everyday Municipal course players.
9.Why will the world’s best golf players be coming to the hotel? We have been told that the Championship course will not play any of the majors.
10.Is the developer “responsible for delivering the [relief] road”? Is it not our Council that is funding this?
11.I am sure that the people of North Wirral are grateful for 160 executive houses. We know that housing is required in greater number for those much less able to afford his houses.
12.Please can he explain his understanding of the words “enabling development and make the whole scheme viable”?
13.Housing might mean 4% of the total site as it covers ground but what does housing and hotel and golf courses mean for the locality’s infrastructure? Are there sufficient doctors and schools in the district or does he anticipate that the home-owners will source these privately?
What about water supply, sewerage, land drainage, electricity and telecommunications supply? Can local supplies cope?
If not, who pays?
14.The proposal is designed to create wealth. It will create wealth for the developer. Those people temporarily employed in construction will be better off, not rich, for a while. Those who will work on resort will be paid minimum wage in low-quality service sector jobs.
If our Council was to invest its funds properly, higher paid work in high quality jobs would be provided.
15.Please, Mr Anderson, do not patronise your taxi driver and the window cleaner.
The food and beverage outlet will spend £340,000 but where does he regard as “local” for his supplies? It is my experience of the hotel and restaurant trade that because the same high quality service and produce is required 24/7, only a Nationwide source can provide.
16.Council’s only reason for the leisure resort is the Tax income that it will generate.
Has our Council done any work to find alternatives to it. The answer is a resounding “No!”
17.When did NJVG first enter the scene?
Why has it taken this long for it to make such little progress?
18.Why is it important for “it [to] be in play by the time the Open next comes to Royal Liverpool”?
What does the developer have in mind?

According to Company Check, James Anderson has 3 Active Directorships (LOUGHOR INVESTMENTS LIMITED [net worth £0.0], MACHYNYS PENINSULA GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB LIMITED [net worth £2.3 million], NICKLAUS JOINT VENTURE GROUP LIMITED [net worth -£50k]), has resigned from 11 companies and held 11 appointments at 11 dissolved companies. The combined cash at bank value for all businesses where ANDERSON holds a current appointment equals £57k, a combined total current assets value of £966.2k with a total current liabilities of £1.5m and total current net worth of £2.3m.

Both Government and our Council say that Due Diligence was carried out on Seaborne Freight and NJVG but, as we know, that done by Government failed and led to ending its contract with the shipping company that owned no ships and had no record of trading in ships.

Council is unable to say how it carried out its Due Diligence examination into NJVG, a shell company that owns no property, has built nothing and has no trading history except that of having liabilities that exceed its assets.

Council told us that NJVG has spent “half-a-million pounds” but not how and it does not show in public accounts.

We eagerly await responses from Council and Mr Anderson who prefers the anonymity of no email address.

By John H Hutchinson

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