PLANNING APPLICATIONS: WHAT'S HAPPENED SO FAR?
Peel Holdings, the landowners of Hulton Park, submitted planning applications to develop the greenbelt land by building a considerable amount of housing, a championship golf course, a golf academy including a driving range, and a hotel - all which may result in the removal of existing working farms, wildlife and the ecosystem of this unique local heritage asset.
The planning applications consisted of nearly 450 documents which outlined a proposal, in summary, to develop land at and adjacent to Hulton Park for a championship golf course and 1036 houses.
All planning application documents can be viewed on the Bolton Council website but the documents below are the most important to look at:
Key to this proposal was the council's review of the 'special circumstances' that Peel put forward to allow for the development of greenbelt land. These can be found in Section 11 (p. 109) of the Planning Statement as outlined below:
The restoration and enhancement of Hulton Park, a Grade II listed Registered Park and Garden, and the Grade II listed Dovecote (VSC1).
The absence of an alternative location (VSC2).
The economic and legacy benefits of the proposed development and the proposed hosting of the Ryder Cup (VSC3).
The social, cultural and tourism impacts of the proposed development (VSC4).
Increased beneficial use of the Green Belt across the Site (VSC5).
Meeting the Borough’s housing needs (VSC6).
Reducing congestion in the local highway network (VSC7).
Net environmental enhancements to the Site as a result of the proposed development (VSC8).
HEART do not believe that any of these were good enough reasons to irreversibly change the greenbelt and Hulton Park, a Grade II listed Registered Park and Garden that is of special historic interest.
The formal deadline for objections was 29 July 2017.
We prepared methodically our response to the application, which included a template letter for residents who would like to object against the proposals. This was based on the evidence submitted by Peel and the key legal points against the development using evidence based planning.
Below were some of the key points HEART objected to the development on:
The land for proposed development is greenbelt - the special considerations listed by Peel were not good enough to lose our greenbelt.
Hulton Park is a valued landscape as well as a Grade II listed Registered Park and Garden.
Traffic around the Chequerbent roundabout and Four Lane Ends is already awful; a thousand new homes would only make this worse. The proposed link road would not ease this enough. Peel stated that the new 1,000 homes would only see an increase of 539 cars at morning rush hour.
Local services such as schools, doctors, dentists and public transport were already at capacity.
Peel said they need the build the houses to fund a Ryder Cup golf course. We all know this is never coming to Bolton!
HEART worked hard to encourage people to object to the council, and outlined the key points we recommended to include in the objection letter.
HEART continued to focus on raising awareness of what we were set to lose if Hulton Park was built on.
We needed people who were willing to give us their time to help us with things like leaflet dropping and gathering support.
On 22 March, the Planning Committee met to make a decision on the planning application; the plans were PASSED following a tight vote. The planning application was approved with certain conditions.
Voted in FAVOUR
Councillor Nicholas Peel, Labour
Councillor Elaine Sherrington, Labour
Councillor Hanif Darvesh, Labour
Councillor Joyce Kellett, Labour
Councillor Lynda Byrne, Labour
Councillor Robert Allen, Conservative
Councillor Champak Mistry, Labour
Councillor Shamim Adbullah, Labour
Seven of these Councillors were Labour and they voted against their own Core Strategy, which was to NOT build on greenbelt.
At the meeting, all six Ward Councillors spoke eloquently AGAINST the development:
Councillor Shafaqat Shaikh, Labour, Hulton
Councillor Diane Parkinson, Conservative, Hulton
Councillor Toby Hewitt, Conservative, Hulton
Councillor Zoe Kirk-Robinson, Conservative, Westhoughton North and Chew Moor
Councillor Christine Wild, Conservative, Westhoughton North and Chew Moor
Councillor Martyn Cox, Conservative, Westhoughton North and Chew Moor
HEART are grateful to those who spoke on our behalf, and to the Councillors who spoke in opposition to the proposal.
Richard Knight, representing Peel, when questioned on if they did not get the Ryder Cup, quoted:
"We are a business that does what we say we are going to do... Our plans if we are not successful with the Ryder Cup... well... those are before the council in any event in terms of our submissions to the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, and that is the situation that will continue regardless of this project. We are here invested in this project and that is what we want to deliver but if it is not possible that (the GMSF submission) is what we will revert to."
The draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework had a leisure development and 1,000 houses proposed for Hulton Park, suggesting that Peel's plan, if they do not get the Ryder Cup, is to continue with the development anyway.
HEART would continue to try and safeguard Hulton Park through all possible means as we did not believe that this was a done deal.
Our next step was to ensure that the decision was called in by the Secretary of State.
MARCH - JULY 2018
The deadline to call for a public inquiry was July 2018.
We asked you all to do the same. We printed postcards for everyone to sign but advised that individual letters carried far more weight.
Here was some guidance but to write with only 'material considerations' as to why the Secretary of State should call this decision in.
The Rt. Hon Sajid Javid
Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 Marsham Street
Dear Secretary of State,
Further to the decision taken by Bolton Council on 22nd March 2018 to approve application 00997/17: Land at and adjacent to Hulton Park, Bolton we respectfully request the Secretary of State to call in the planning application for his determination due to the substantial harm a golf course, academy, hotel, conference centre and over 1,000 executive houses will cause to a rare National Heritage asset: - the unique 18th century landscape architect designed (William Eames) Grade II Park and Garden on Green Belt. This is of National significance (ref. Historic England Official Listing, list entry number 1001581).
The application conflicts with both National and Local Policies on important matters to a degree that justifies your intervention:
NPPF 12. 132. Substantial harm to or loss of designated heritage assets of the highest significance, notably...grade I and II* registered parks and gardens, should be wholly exceptional." Ryder Cup golf course with no guarantees is not exceptional.
NPPF 11.118. "planning permission should be refused for development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and the loss of aged or veteran trees found outside ancient woodland, unless the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss." An exclusive golf course and executive houses are not needed nor benefit the community and certainly do not outweigh the destruction of approx 23 acres of mature trees. Mitigation is to plan more saplings but it takes 40 - 50 years for a mature tree to grow.
Bolton's Core Strategy Policy QA4 states: "The Council...will...conserve and enhance...the historic registered Hulton Park." The Council have voted to destroy it by moving 1 million tonnes of earthworks.
The site is also Green Belt across the whole of its extent and Sites of Biological Importance (SBIs) cover most of its extent. This development is against NPPF 9.90.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of this nationally significant matter.
The Secretary of State has agreed to call in a Public Inquiry to decide if the greenbelt at Hulton Park can be developed. The Public Inquiry will be held on 1 October 2019; venue currently unknown.
We are similar to David facing Goliath (the mighty Peel). David won!
On 19 June, a Council Meeting was held in Bolton Town Hall's Council Camber. Councillor Greenhalgh proposed the following motion:
"Following the Secretary of State’s decision to call in the Planning Committee’s decision approving the development of Hulton Park this council strongly recommends to the relevant Executive Cabinet Member/Cabinet, as advised, to limit the amount of resources in defending this decision made by the committee to the statutory minimum."
The motion was passed by a very large majority.
The main repeated argument being "why should the council spend a quarter of a million pounds defending a decision that the council no longer agrees with, and when there are more important things to spend taxpayer's money on".
This was particularly well expressed by the new council leader and others.
Watch the debate and the vote on Bolton Council's website.
Although we have won the battle to call in a Public Inquiry, we are now facing a war. We need to raise money to pay legal fees to put our case forward to save the working farms, wildlife and ecosystem of this unique local heritage asset.
We hold regular meetings with our members so if you are not a member, why don't you join us and get involved? Attend our fundraising events, or give a donation. Our motto is 'Every little helps.' You can even fundraise for us!
If you can help us in any way, contact us and let us know!