Peel’s controversial Hulton Park development set for approval

Proposals by Peel to create a championship golf course and more than 1,000 homes at Hulton Park look set to be approved by an extraordinary meeting of Bolton’s planning committee next week, despite attracting more than 1,000 letters of objection.

Peel’s £240m investment in the site, which it purchased in 2010, includes plans for a Ryder Cup-standard golf course, a hotel with conferencing and spa facilities, and outline consent for 1,036 homes.

It is hoped the championship golf course will form part of a bid to host the 2026 Ryder Cup.

The 142-bed hotel will be housed in the grade two-listed Hulton Hall and will be either four or five-star, taking up 116,000 sq ft.

Residential development will be split across three areas; a 150-acre site of circa 759 homes to the west, accessed via a new link road; an 18-acre site of 192 houses, accessed from the A6; and a 15-acre site with the potential to deliver 85 homes.

The new link road, running between Chequerbent roundabout and Platt Lane, is estimated to cost nearly £5m.

The plans were originally due to be discussed by the council’s planning committee on 1 March, following a site visit on 22 February, but the meeting was postponed following a flurry of feedback from local residents. At the time, the council said “time can’t be found to go through it all”, forcing the planning committee to be pushed back to 22 March.

Local groups, including Hulton Estate Area Residents Together, have spearheaded a campaign against the plans, and in February Peel chairman John Whittaker took the rare step of speaking publicly about the proposal, arguing it would “give a new lease of life” to a “crumbling treasure in desperate need of major investment”.

An initial consultation on the scheme, which concluded on 9 February this year, garnered 388 individual objection letters, 698 circular-style objection letters, and one letter in support.

Outlining their reasons for supporting the proposals, Bolton planners admitted the site was an “inappropriate development in green belt terms” but said that “very special circumstances” had been brought forward by Peel to allow it to go ahead.

A viability assessment submitted by Peel suggests the development as a whole would make a loss of around £25m, meaning that the developer is not putting forward any affordable housing contribution as a result.

The developer also said the new homes would provide a £4.5m new homes bonus to the council, as well as additional council tax payments of £2m and annual business rates revenue of £400,000.

Peel is expected to contribute £3m to secondary education and £2.9m to primary education, subject to a Section 106 agreement.

Whilst officers acknowledged the residential element of the proposals would “result in significant harm to the openness of the green belt,” the planners’ report said Bolton Council’s committee should be minded to approve the proposals, subject to a decision by the Secretary of State.

The report also said Peel had demonstrated “very special circumstances” for the development. Circumstances put forward by Peel include the restoration of the grade two-listed Hulton Park; an absence of alternative location; the social, cultural and tourism value of the proposals; and meeting the borough’s housing need.

Officers put “limited weight” on Peel’s argument that building homes counted as very special circumstances, and instead placed “substantial weight” on the economic and tourism benefits of hosting the Ryder Cup at the site.

The officers’ report concluded: “The proposal would result in the moderate harm to the designated heritage assets but that the benefits of restoring the park and providing a viable long-term use of the site would outweigh that harm.

“A number of non-designated heritage assets would be lost as a result of the proposal but again officers consider that the benefits of limited residential development within the park and the creation of a new vehicular access point are necessary compromises which outweigh the harmful impacts.”

“Officers consider that the proposed development would be contrary to green belt policy but that cumulatively the reasons put forward by the applicant constitute very special circumstances which outweigh the harm to the green belt and any other harm.

“Whilst noting the substantial levels of objection to the proposal and that the proposal would be contrary to the development plan, it is considered that the material considerations detailed within this report justify the granting of permission.”

Planning conditions put forward by officers include the submission of a phasing plan before any construction works begin; that no more than 275 houses are to be occupied before the golf course is operational; and the submission of a plan for public rights of way infrastructure in and around the site.

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 golf course.

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