THE Globe is leading a debate on controversial proposals to develop a "golf resort" on Hoylake's municipal course.

The scheme would see two new courses introduced on the land along with 160 deluxe homes plus a hotel and spa.

Developers behind the proposed "Hoylake Celtic Manor leisure resort" say it will bring hundreds of jobs, thousands of visitors and massive investment to Wirral when the development gets the go ahead.

The resort is part of a joint venture scheme proposing to build a four/five-star hotel, 110-table restaurant, health suite and spa alongside two new Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses.

Celtic Manor would run the hotel complex and golf courses in the joint venture initiative with Jack Nicklaus, who will design both a championship standard modern links style golf course and a municipal "pay as you play" course, and PJ Livesey and Redrow, who will build residential homes and apartments on the site.

The scheme has the support of Wirral's Labour group but has angered local people with 20,000 signing a protest petition.

We asked Celtic Manor chief executive Ian Edwards to explain why our readers should support the initiative.

And as a counterpoint, we invited the leader of Wirral Council Conservatives, Cllr Ian Lewis, to say why his group will be opposing the plans.

Wirral Globe:

An image used during a recent public consultation exercise 

Mr Edwards said:

“Celtic Manor has established a reputation as one of Europe’s finest destinations for golf, leisure and business, and we have been voted the UK’s Best Hotel at the Meetings and Incentive Travel Awards for seven of the last eight years.

Our business is constantly looking for opportunities to grow and Hoylake is an obvious and attractive setting for what will be our first leisure resort in the north. Wirral is a quite stunning place, somewhere I’ve visited many times over the past few years and every time I come something else surprises me.

It’s not just about the location, or the connectivity, or the beauty of the environment – although they’re all first rate – there’s a real sense of community here, from the local high street to the community groups and businesses I have seen. We can add to that with this attractive and exciting development, designed and developed in harmony with the local environment and community.

With the quality of offer we can attract business and leisure visitors to the borough in their thousands – as well as golfers who want to try their hand at world class courses, both on site and in the surrounding area.

It’s not just about golf. Hoylake’s world class reputation as a sporting venue known to millions around the world certainly adds to its attraction, but golf is just a little bit of what we do, and would account for only about ten per cent of our business. We’re talking about making Wirral a true leisure destination.

All these visitors spend money in local bars and restaurants. They use local taxi firms, buy gifts and souvenirs, and take time to explore the other delights on offer across the area, helping transform the local economy.

Forecasts indicate the development will have a direct and indirect impact by providing Wirral residents with access to more than 100 jobs immediately, with up to 300 in the near future. Training and apprenticeship schemes would give local youngsters career opportunities at an attractive, world-famous tourist attraction.

We have done it in South Wales where we have hosted two major global events in the past decade – the Ryder Cup and the NATO Summit. We can absolutely do it here, too.

Overall the development would include:

Links Golf academy available to local schools to add to their sporting curriculum

Championship standard Jack Nicklaus-designed modern links style course available for public play

Jack Nicklaus-designed municipal public golf course, the only such course in the world, with the existing municipal price structure retained

A 4-5-star hotel 

Health and leisure facility, with local membership availability

Spa with eight treatment rooms

Meeting rooms

110-table restaurant with local booking availability

The team behind this development acknowledge it has attracted some controversy over the past few years, mainly focused on its proposed location and the plans for new homes.

But James Anderson, chief executive of the organisation representing Jack Nicklaus, says Wirral residents will get their say and concerns will be listened to.

We understand the sensitivity here. We know it’s a beautiful place, which people really care about.

We know from the numerous conversations we have already had people want to be reassured that the developments we are proposing respect wildlife, native species and recognise local environmental concerns.

Golf is going green, through promotion of eco-friendly methods and awards for sustainability. Biodiversity conservation and habitat creation are key goals.

Cutting roughs in ways that improve wildlife, minimising water usage reducing pesticides – all help.

Up to half of the golf course’s total area will be uncultivated.

It is currently cultivated land. This will promote new areas of habitat creation and the large areas of lakes and marshland covering tens of acres of the site will provide wildfowl sanctuaries as well as controlling floodwaters and providing water storage areas.

We will continue to listen.

I am really keen that in the new year all the partners on this development get out there and talk to Wirral residents, find out their concerns and make sure every one of them is considered and acted on.

For this reason Nicklaus design have been awarded many environmental awards for 'protecting and enhancing the environment.'

We know this development will create the jobs, attract new visitors and have the positive impact it promises – and we will achieve this if we work within the local environment and with the local community. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.

I would challenge the belief of some opposition groups that golf is a declining sport.

Celtic Manor is one of the leading golf and leisure destinations in the world and we are attracting the same number of golfers today that we were in the few months immediately after the Ryder Cup eight years ago.

Most of the figures related to declining numbers in golf relate to traditional golf club membership models and we have not experienced the same issues in our golf operation, which is driven by visiting players as Hoylake would be. Done well, golf is alive and thriving in this country.

Hoylake will host the Walker Cup in 2019, attracting thousands of visitors to boost the local economy and give Wirral another opportunity to showcase its appeal as a destination for golf and leisure.

A planning application for the development is currently being prepared. The developers say a major part of the application is detailed studies on the environmental, traffic and social impact of the scheme, and they have committed to making the results of every study available to the public.

A consultation programme on the development is also being prepared and is scheduled to start in the early part of 2019."

Councillor Lewis said:

"Celtic Manor Resort for Hoylake…or as it was known before its latest rebranding by the council, the 'Hoylake Golf Resort' is presented as being the only option by Wirral’s Labour Council.

As the scheme has trundled through the town hall’s bureaucracy, more and more aspects of what is proposed, and why, have been questioned, challenged and in some cases disproved.

So far, grass-roots opponents to the loss of this valuable part of our Green Belt have amassed more than 20,000 names on petitions.

Many of the people I have spoken to are not ‘NIMBYs’ but people with legitimate concerns that, at no stage, have been answered by the council.

The golf resort at Hoylake is NOT the only option on the table, but it is the only option the council is supporting financially.

Indeed, as the warm words and glossy spin is stripped away, what we have at the heart of the plan is a very lucrative development of 160 luxury houses on a valuable piece of Green Belt, subsidised by the ‘cash-strapped’ council to the tune of up to £26m.

And, like all developments on our Green Belt, this one could also have been avoided had the council complied with the law and produced a Local Plan to protect it.

The chief executive of Celtic Manor makes no mention of houses on the Green Belt but instead refutes claims that golf is a declining sport.

Yet the claims that golf is a declining sport are the justification given by the cabinet in their recent decision to offload two of the borough’s golf courses.

Arrowe Park and Warren will no longer be run by the council while a third, Brackenwood, is left in limbo presumably until a developer can be found for that one as well.

At the public meeting for the golf resort in Hoylake, residents urged the leader of the council to look at an alternative – an ‘eco resort’ that protects and enhances it.

To date, nothing has been done by the council to explore this more innovative and environmentally-friendly option.

Presumably because it won’t bring in the cash from Band H Council Tax and the New Homes Bonus.

Will the next leader of the Labour group really want to hitch themselves to this now-politically toxic plan or will they agree with the many, and not the few, and ditch it?"