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Opposition is growing to the proposed new golf course in Bolton that has been touted as the potential host for the 2031 Ryder Cup ahead of a crucial council planning committee meeting this week.
Local residents' and wildlife groups are urging Bolton Council to reject developers Peel L&P’s plans for the regeneration of Grade II-listed Hulton Park Estate, which include more than 1000 homes, a hotel and school, as well as a championship golf course.
Bolton Council, who last month voted to delay their decision, meets again on Thursday February 24th to decide whether to give the plans the go ahead.
Stephanie Williams, who runs the Bolton-based Every Feather Wildlife Rescue, is hoping the plans are thrown out, fearing that Peel plans to build houses all over the area and that the golf course could have a short shelf life before being closed and built over.
“This is a greenbelt area and an area of ancient woodland,” said Williams. “It's a virtually undisturbed landscape which is home to hundreds of different species of wildlife.
"It's one of the last pieces of countryside left to us in an area that used to be surrounded by it. Peel has moved in and taken most of it away. Hulton Park is the last sanctuary for displaced wildlife and the area.
“If I believed that it would be just a golf club on the site I wouldn't be completely opposed. It isn't though - not even close. This is a way for Peel to try and remove the green belt status so they can build all over it.
"Golf clubs simply don't survive well in the area and numerous ones have closed over the last few years. Peel knows this course won't thrive and eventually they can close it down and build on it.”
These views are echoed by local residents’ group HEART (Hulton Estate Area Residents Together), which says that Bolton wouldn’t keep its championship course even if it did get to host the biennial Europe v USA match.
“As soon as the Ryder Cup in 2031 or 2035 is over, Peel is going to rip up the necessary spectator stands, hospitality, media facilities and car parking and build houses there,” said HEART secretary Sandra Hesketh. “ What clearer evidence can there be that this is all about selling houses?”
Developers Peel, on the other hand, says its proposals would open up the estate to the public for the first time in its 700-year history and create 1,000 jobs and apprenticeships.
Richard Knight, Peel L&P’s Director of Planning & Strategy said: “The selection of Hulton Park as a potential venue for the Ryder Cup is now a very realistic and exciting prospect and we hope that the council will seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity and support our efforts to bring this prestigious event – and all the benefits that flow from it – to Bolton.”
Peel has revised plans after opposition from the local community even though Bolton Council initially approved them. Last week, the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper confirmed it had commissioned UK Sport to lead feasibility work on bringing major sporting events to the United Kingdom, focusing away from London as part of the ambition to ‘level up’ the UK.
“Our revised proposals for Hulton Park are a great fit with the Government’s Levelling Up missions and it’s good to see the importance placed on sport and health in the White Paper to help balance regional and local inequalities,” added Knight.
Should the Hulton Park redevelopment get the go ahead, it will be up against the London Club, one of the best golf courses in Kent, to be chosen as England’s candidate to host the 2031 Ryder Cup.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is expected to select the preferred English venue in April with a decision expected from the DP World Tour - formerly the European Tour - on which of the bids from across Europe is successful, due in July.
If the plans are rejected, or the London Club is selected at England’s preferred course, the Hulton Park plans won’t go ahead. The next two Ryder Cups to be held in Europe will be at Rome’s Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in 2023 and Adare Manor in Ireland four years later.
Jeff graduated from Leeds University in Business Studies and Media in 1996 and did a post grad in journalism at Sheffield College in 1997. His first jobs were on Slam Dunk (basketball) and Football Monthly magazines, and he's worked for the Sunday Times, Press Association and ESPN. He has faced golfing greats Sam Torrance and Sergio Garcia, but on the poker felt rather than the golf course. Jeff's favourite course played is Sandy Lane in Barbados, which went far better than when he played Matfen Hall in Northumberland, where he crashed the buggy on the way to the 1st tee!
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