26 Feb 2019

Hoylake Golf Resort is a failure of political leadership

Last night there was an extraordinary meeting of full council to debate the Hoylake Golf Resort scheme. 

This has long been a hugely controversial proposal which has sucked time, energy and cash from where its really needed and what Wirral people support which is regenerating East Wirral. How much further advanced would Wirral Waters be if we hadn't wasted so many of our resources on the hugely unpopular scheme.

By a single vote on one motion Labour won the day but they are clearly losing the war. It is a real failure of political leadership that this scheme ever saw the light of day never mind the failure to now pull the plug.

Below is the speech I gave which you can watch here (at 1.14.30) on the council webcast.

Firstly, I’d like to sincerely thank the work of the Stop the Hoylake Golf Resort group. Their detailed and dogged analysis has systematically challenged the economic and environmental credentials of this scheme.

Anyone who watched the recent call-in on the local plan will have heard the cabinet member for housing say more than once “none of us councillors want to build on the green belt”.

The simple truth is by promoting this scheme, and allocating huge amounts of public funds that could have been invested where really needed, the leader and cabinet have persistently demonstrated that they do want to build on the green belt.

And, there can therefore be no surprise if the public simply do not trust this council to protect any of our green belt. 

So instead of rebranding this scheme as the Celtic Manor Resort let’s start calling it what it really is – “The Hoylake executive housing in the greenbelt” scheme.

But the public loss of trust extends way beyond the green belt. This scheme is a poster project for unsustainable development. It assaults every key environmental concern that we face.

Take biodiversity: we know that, on a global scale, humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970. Just last week, the UN warned us that the world's food supply is under 'severe threat' from loss of biodiversity.

In response, Ireland’s President Michael Higgins said “Around the world, the library of life that has evolved over billions of years our biodiversity is being destroyed, poisoned, polluted, invaded, fragmented, plundered, drained and burned at a rate not seen in human history. If we were coal miners wed be up to our waists in dead canaries.

Yet here we have Wirral council still promoting a scheme that will devastate our own biodiversity in a key location for wildlife. Apart from the destruction caused by new roads and buildings, golf courses require, on average, seven times the amount of chemicals as farmland.

Take air quality: we know that Wirral fails to meet World Health Organisation safe limits. Some of our residents are literally chocking to death on the air they breathe. Many others have their health impaired.

Yet here we have plans to spend £17 million of public money to build a new road which we know will increase traffic and further damage our air quality.

And as for climate breakdown it’s almost as if a scheme based on the wealthy flying in to play a round of golf and flying home again has been deliberately designed to wind up the surging ranks of climate campaigners.

When striking school children tell us they feel let down its exactly this kind of outdated, 20th century thinking they are referring to.

On more than one occasion I heard a former cabinet member for the environment refer to the Hoylake Executive Housing Scheme in the green belt as “my kind of socialism”. 

But now we learn that Celtic Manor do not recognise trade unions, use zero hours contracts and do not pay the living wage.

If the cabinet thinks this is an acceptable form of socialism then it is no surprise that they have failed to carry their own party members with them. 

Surely nobody who calls themselves a socialist could vote for this elitist scheme.

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