For the past three weeks the Hulton Inquiry has been taking place in Bolton.

CPRE Lancashire fielded Dr Des Brennan to the public speaker session on Thursday, October 10, 2019.

He gave an excellent, considered and detailed representation concerning the s106 Agreement, which has since been amended, and is now watertight on the issue of no commencement of ALL and ANY development to the proposal site before it is certain that Peel’s bid to host a Ryder Cup tournament has been successful.

For the avoidance of doubt, we remain strongly opposed to the development being promoted by Peel with an ambition of a bid to the 2026 Ryder Cup at Hulton Park, which includes an 18-hole championship golf resort, with hotel, spa, conference centre and golf academy, and an enabling development of more than 1,000 homes in the Green Belt.

We objected to the original application, and wrote to the Secretary of State requesting a ‘call in’ of the decision, when Bolton Council decided it was minded to approve by a slim vote of eight to seven members.

The elections in May altered the make-up of the Council, and Peel requested bids for the 2030 and 2034 Ryder Cups following Adare Manor being awarded the 2026 event, yet the Council decision was not revisited.

Peel had some 11 professional witnesses on covering all topics, and information contained in some 1,000 or so inquiry documents.

The local residents who spoke at the Inquiry gave frank and impassioned representations of why the development would if approved adversely impact on them and their local community.

Elaine Taylor of Lancashire Gardens Trust referred to the Park as a ‘sleeping giant’ and emphasised the ‘art’ of the ‘designed’ pleasure grounds, serpentine lake and other Emes features. The loss of Dearden’s Farm, a three-generation farm and now local hub for the community with its café and farm shop was highlighted as a particular loss, including a farm diversification business being run by the Farmer and his daughters.

Two constituency MPs (one Conservative, one Labour), and each of the ward local councillors spoke out about how inequitable the proposals would be. A general distrust in Peel, the strategic investment company, due to its previous proposals to develop its golf courses to residential development elsewhere in the City-Region was laid bare.

Only one single representation was made in support of the proposal and this was from Gary Cook, former CEO of Manchester City, and a Peel Sports Consultant with connections to Peel.

CPRE Lancashire in support of the Rule 6 Party (HEART the local community group), contracted out Ms Jackie Copley our Planning Manager on a consultancy basis to act as an independent planning witness. Mr Peter Dixon, Barrister, who lead the HEART case, summarised for the Inspector, whose task is to report and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, the negative planning balance of the case.

HEART witnesses, Mr Chris Gallagher, Historic Landscape Consultant, gave a solid account of why the Register Park and Garden would be substantially harmed in NPPF terms by the introduction of golf features across the designed historic landscape by famous landscapers and improvers William Emes and John Webb. Ms Copley focused on the planning policy conflicts at the local and national level.

She put into context the benefits, as limited to a ‘single’ large tournament, and jobs and economic growth focused predominantly outside of Bolton. Both Mr Gallagher and Ms Copley stood their ground when they came under fire during the cross examination by Peel’s Russell Harris QC, and the Council’s junior barrister Matthew Dale-Harris.

CPRE Lancashire hopes its voice, and that of HEART in its substantive case to the Inspector leads to the Secretary of State to refuse the application. Of course it will be political.

HEART was congratulated on its professionalism and courtesy throughout the inquiry. Paul Haworth, Vice Chair offered all parties a jar of his homemade blackberry jam (picked from the hedgerows on the proposal site). Regrettably, despite the offer of a swap, Peel has yet to come good on its word!

CPRE Lancashire