THOUSANDS have added their name to a petition opposing plans to build an 'iconic, international' golf resort in Wirral.

The Hoylake Golf Resort could see an 18-hole championship course as well as a luxury hotel and housing estate built on the town’s municipal golf course.

In December, plans moved a step closer to becoming a reality after the council gave developers the go-ahead to carry out planning and site investigations.

But there is mass opposition to the plans, led by the Stop Hoylake Golf Resort (SHGR) action group.

So far, the online petition against the resort has received over 4,000 signatures, and the group said it has 6,000 names in total, as well as hundreds more letters sent to local MPs.

Phil Simpson, who is chairman of the group, said: “We strongly feel that this golf resort proposal is totally the wrong development. It would destroy the beautiful peaceful nature of the area and totally dominate the open landscape for miles around.

“The council is taking a massive gamble with council tax-payers’ money when they are cutting essential services and struggling to find money for New Ferry – all for what is perceived as a ‘vanity’ golf resort project which has a high risk of never happening.”

The group has hosted various public meetings over the plans – the most recent in December was attended by hundreds.

Mr Simpson added: “This is, in fact, a green belt housing development with the ‘smokescreen’ of a golf resort attached.”

The council said the 'flagship development' will create hundreds of jobs for local people, supporting businesses across the borough.

It will be a 'globally significant' tourism and leisure attraction attracting thousands to Wirral each year, the local authority added.

Council leader Phil Davies also said to oppose the development before a planning application and independent studies of the site had been published was 'extremely short-sighted'.

SHGR has laid out these 11 points for why it is set against the scheme:

1. It’s on green belt land

The group said the development on this section of land is 'against current planning policy', citing the council’s unitary development plan’s two priorities – continued urban regeneration and protection of the green belt.

The group also objected to council leader Phil Davies’ recent statement that the green belt 'is the jewel in Wirral’s crown', but that the golf resort is an exception.

2. It’s on a floodplain

The group said building the resort will increase the flood risk in the Birket Valley – an area already prone to the problem.

Mr Simpson added: “With the effects of climate change it is an extremely risky strategy to build on the flood plain and this development could dramatically increase those problems.”

3. It could harm the animals and birds living there

They said the site is home to a 'wide variety of species', many of them nationally and internationally protected, including fauna and flora and the UK black-tailed protected Godwit population.

4. Previous reports said the site wasn’t viable

The group said consultants have in the past said the resort was 'not viable without luxury housing', and that there was a high risk it would not meet planning guidelines.

Mr Simpson said: “It is estimated that anywhere between £1m and £2m has already been spent. What additional fees and costs will be occurred on top of the money already spent if the council decide to drive this project forward?”

5. Golf is a ‘declining sport’

According to SHGR, just 0.2% of tourists come to the Wirral for golf, compared with 91% coming for coast and countryside.

Mr Simpson said: “Most of Wirral’s residents would not be able to afford the course fees for the resort, and we already have 14 courses in the area.

“Golf requires the creation of unnatural habitats, which are intensely managed with high volumes of water, pesticides and fertilizers, and are highly mechanised in terms of maintenance.

"Despite the golf industry trying to portray themselves as environmentally friendly, such golf resorts devastate the natural habitats which they replace.”

6. They don’t think it will provide enough jobs

The group said the jobs to be provided by the scheme – around 175 – will be 'mostly low paid, low skilled', with many to simply go to contracting companies.

Mr Simpson said: “For the amount of money the council are spending, there will be a very poor return on number of jobs.”

7. There are alternatives

They are angry that alternatives, such as an Eco Resort and Wildlife/Wetlands Centre that 'could bring jobs and many more tourists', have not been considered.

“If the development must go ahead on this site in Hoylake, why has the council not considered a more environmentally friendly development?” asked Mr Simpson.

He added: “Wouldn’t it be a better legacy for our children’s future to provide a world class eco-friendly resort, promoting renewable and sustainable living rather than just another golf resort like the 1,000s of others around the world?”

8. They aren’t happy about the public consultation

The group said Wirral Council’s consultation was 'weak', and that most of the public comments received were either opposed or had reservations about the resort.

Mr Simpson said: “Only a list of public comments on the proposals has been published. This public consultation was undertaken long before the public knew the full impacts of the resort proposals. The majority of the local community are against the resort.”

9. Traffic and pollution concerns

They are also angry about the congestion and pollution the resort could cause.

Mr Simpson explained: “Parts of Saughall Massie Road are a winding country lane and is already used by over 100,000 vehicles per week. It is an accident hotspot, totally unsuited to this amount of traffic and any additional traffic will add to the chaos.

“There will be an adverse impact on the traffic in the area due to an increase in vehicles for both construction, the resort itself and the proposed houses.”

10. Costs

The group said costs are 'spiralling', and that there is 'no detailed financial business plan'.

11. Concerns over the developer

The group questioned the track record of Nicklaus Joint Venture Group - the "preferred" developer, claiming it had failed to deliver a hotel as part of one of its recent golf resort schemes in South Wales.

But responding to the allegations, a spokesman for the company said it had never been a requirement of that project to deliver a hotel, and despite its own "business decision" to seek approval for one, an environmental planning "shut down" in the area had halted progress.

Responding to the objections, Wirral council leader, Phil Davies, said: “Hoylake Golf Resort is intended to be a major destination, building on Wirral’s highly regarded reputation for the sport.

“However, it is about much more than golf.

"This proposal is for a globally-significant tourism and leisure attraction, which will attract thousands of visitors to our borough every year and bring much needed revenues, create hundreds of jobs and help build Wirral’s place as an attractive destination.”

He said developments of this scale were 'never straightforward', adding: “This is why it’s so important the due diligence is completed, and we fully investigate every aspect of the plans. That is exactly what we are doing.

“However, those who oppose the development now – before we see the planning application, before we see the outcome of the independent studies, and before we see the full details of what is being proposed – are being extremely short sighted.

“They are also opposing the chance to bring hundreds of jobs, hundreds of millions in tourism revenue and the opportunity to create a truly world-class destination to our borough.”

He said the council was 'very confident' the development will deliver on its promises, and that people in Wirral will 'benefit from a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity'.

He added: “Wirral Council will continue to work on the financial and environment impacts and issues, and we pledge to continue to ensure every resident in the area has the opportunity to make sure their concerns are listened to.”