In what is a totally bizarre decision, the UK government has granted approval for the construction of an already controversial championship golf course, luxury hotel and housing estate but only if the developers can deliver either the 2031 or 2035 Ryder Cup.
Those campaigning strongly in opposition to the Hulton Park project in the former mill town of Bolton in the greater Manchester region, have been left shocked and appalled by the decision to grant the approval for the construction of over 1,036 houses, with the championship golf course and 142-bed hotel to be at the heart of the £240m project.
What the European Tour Ryder Cup Committee thinks of Hulton Park being a host European Ryder Cup venue is unknown but one thing is certain, it’s definitely not the way to find favour in seeking a Ryder Cup.
The Manchester-based developers Peel L & P are leading the project with the local Bolton newspaper reporting the Bolton Council gave the green light to the proposal last year but its decision was called in by the Secretary of State after a hard-fought campaign by Hulton Estate Area Residents Together (HEART).
It’s the first time that the government has intervened in a decision by Bolton Council in such a way since the new Wanderers’ football stadium and the major out-of-town retail park in Middlebrook were signed off in 1995.
MPs, councillors and dozens of residents attended the three-week hearing and many made their case against the development directly to the government-appointed inspector.
David Chadwick, chair of the Hulton Estate Area Residents Together (HEART), expressed his anger at the latest development.
He said: “Quite frankly I’m appalled by the fact the inspector and the government decided to approve the planning application – I’m devastated.
“I will be completely gobsmacked if they get the Ryder Cup in either of those years, I don’t wish to disrespect our town but quite frankly it beggars belief that it could take place in Bolton.
“It’s a heritage site that’s home to many animals including deer and birds, it’s a very great site, I’m just completely and utterly appalled by this decision.
“I feel quite sorry for the people who’ve worked so hard to try and beat Peel, they’ve raised so much money for a barrister and it’s to their credit – I feel so very sad for them.”
A three-week public inquiry about the plans was held in Bolton last October after the Secretary of State “called in” Bolton Council’s decision to grant planning permission in 2018,
Hulton Park Estate, which is classified as green belt land, could see the international golf destination open in 2025, with Peel believing the development could bring £1.2b to the national economy.
Richard Knight, Director of Land and Communities for Peel L&P said: “We take great pride in creating projects that can leave a positive legacy. Our plans for Hulton Park can deliver an amazing global sporting destination capable of hosting major tournaments as well as a catalyst for positive change, healthy living, heritage restoration and tourism in Bolton.
“The proposals can also bring much-needed housing to the borough and the development is both respectful to the area’s heritage and the environment with original roads and footpaths retained and the creation of new wildlife habitats to enhance biodiversity.
“We’re incredibly pleased that the Secretary of State recognises all of these benefits alongside our vision for Hulton Park and this decision allows us to move to the next stage of making the project a reality.”
Powerful and promising words from Mr. Knight but no one can simply ‘promise’ the delivery of a Ryder Cup, now the world’s third biggest sports team event.