Wirral Council have been accused of being tied down to unpopular plans for a £200m golf course after documents revealed they have entered into a legally binding exclusivity deal with private developers.

It means the local authority could face legal action if they breach a development agreement they made over plans for a ‘millionaire’s golf course’ on green belt land.

The local authority decided not to go ahead with loaning private developers Nicklaus Joint Venture Group an eye-watering £26m to fund the controversial Celtic Manor golf resort.

The plans aim to create a hotel, two golf courses and about 150 executive homes on a floodplain near Hoylake, but have been subject to widespread protests from residents who objected to building on the borough’s green belt.

At a cabinet meeting yesterday, Labour members – who run the council as a minority administration – agreed to reject the £26m loan after considering funding the project for some time.

But that is far from the end of the saga, with documents revealing the council have entered into a ‘development agreement’ with Celtic Manor.

The information has come to light in the minutes of a constituency committee for Wirral West, where David Ball, assistant director Major Growth Projects for Wirral Council, gave an update on the plans.

The minutes reveal a member of the public asked if there was a financial clause in the plan to pay compensation to the Nicklaus Joint Venture Group and Celtic Manor should the council decide to pull out of the scheme.

The chairman asked for reassurance that there are no severance costs associated with the Hoylake golf course contract.

The document states: “David Ball explained that the council has entered into a development agreement with Celtic Manor and if the council were to break that agreement then they could be open to legal action.

“He stated that these were standard terms and conditions and covered breaches of condition for both sides. He also stated that he was developing an agreement between the council and the Nicklaus Joint Venture Group.”

A development agreement is a legally binding contract between a property owner or developer and a local authority.

A council spokesman said the development agreement was an "exclusivity agreement" that Celtic Manor are the only developers who could put forward a scheme on that land.

He stressed this did not guarantee they would be allowed to build on the land, with any plans subject to the full planning process.

He also said the council had not broken that agreement by deciding not to part-fund the scheme.

Rejecting the loan on Monday, the Labour group said while the scheme had many benefits they could not justify spending such an amount on a private development

However, Conservative leader Ian Lewis, a staunch critic of the plans, said: “It looks like the Labour cabinet has got into this much deeper than anyone knew.

"They may well have exposed the taxpayer to a potential risk, even after all the public opposition, and without anything to show for it.”

Campaigners against the plans are opposed to any building on the land whatsoever.

Phil Simpson, who is chairman of the Stop Hoylake Golf Course Action Group, said the decision to reject the loan was "welcome news" but warned if the plans went forward with private funding, they would continue to be opposed by groups across Wirral.

Jim Anderson, chairman of the Nicklaus Joint Venture Group told the BBC on Monday that they still had the “appetite to deliver” the scheme and looked forward to “considering alternative funding options and to working with Wirral Council to bring this exciting project forward.”

The council spokesman added: “There has been a development agreement in place between the council and the developers of this scheme for a number of years.

“Part of that agreement included the council making a decision on whether to invest in the scheme or not. That decision was made by the cabinet on 8 July.

“The developers, should they find alternative funding, can still submit a planning application for the development.

"This will be treated in exactly the same legal planning process as any other proposed development.”