Golfer Tommy Fleetwood backs controversial plans for a Ryder Cup in Bolton

Tommy Fleetwood secured the all-important point to make Europe victorious in Rome Credit: PA Images

Golfer Tommy Fleetwood who secured the winning point in Europe's Ryder Cup victory in Rome has backed plans to bring the biennial golf tournament to Bolton.

The controversial development of the Hulton Park site is around 30 miles away from where the golfer grew up in Southport.

The three times Ryder Cup player will be 44 when the 2035 Ryder Cup comes around.

“Being a part of that bid, supporting the area, being a boy from the North West of England and everything that we believe that it can bring, it’s very, very special to me," he said.

"On top of that, the opportunity to play a role as a player or a captain or a vice captain or any way of me being in that Ryder Cup would be just the icing on the cake and unbelievably special.“

Fleetwood has become an official ambassador for the proposed Hulton Park venue and said he is excited about the economic and social regeneration that it would bring to the north-west region.

He said: “I’ve studied the proposals for Hulton closely and seen the site for myself – it is an amazing landscape and the prospect of a purpose-built stadium course here would be fantastic for everyone concerned – for golf, for the tournament and for the game in England.

"But perhaps more importantly, I love what this proposal offers to my corner of the country.

"I can see that it would inspire more people in the North West to take up the game and for those who don’t play golf, it will also bring jobs, investment and tourism to the region and open up a huge new green space for the community."

The latter point has been a contentious issue for years with residents protesting at the destruction of ancient woodland.

The scheme includes an 18-hole championship golf course with proposals for a village centre, a village hall, community allotments, primary school, short stay holiday accommodation and 1,036 new houses in the Over Hulton area.

"It is just a ruse to build executive houses", campaigners claim

Sandra Hesketh, from the Hulton Estate Area Residents Together (HEART) residents campaign said: "This area has been unspoiled for nearly 1,000 years and they want to rip up 200 acres, they want to rip up 500 acres of hedgerow which provides habitat for protected animals which have never been disturbed.

Sandra Hesketh from HEART Residents campaign believes the golf course will be a 'white elephant' Credit: ITV Granada

"They say they will plant more new trees than they plan to rip up, but it takes 20 years for trees to do their job.

"What about our lungs in the meantime?" she asked.

HEART do not believe the Ryder Cup will regenerate the local economy.

It said: "One tournament will be a white elephant, which Bolton Council will end up having to pay for, it is just a ruse to build executive houses."

Maxine Peake is backing the residents campaign opposed to plan for a Ryder Cup golf course in Bolton Credit: PA

The Bolton-born actor Maxine Peake used to ride horses on the Hulton estate and 'loved spending her formative' years on the local farms.

She has described the plans to build on the greenbelt as a "crime which is motivated by greed."

Bolton Council U-Turn on Ryder Cup development

Bolton Council planning committee members had voted almost unanimously to reject the bid in February 2022.

They cited concerns about the environment and effects on traffic and after campaigns by community groups like Hulton Estate Area Residents Together.

HEART residents protest at Bolton Town Hall over plans for controversial Ryder Cup course on the former Hulton Estate Credit: ITV Granada Reports

Developers Peel L&P appealed against the refusal and the government planning inspectorate criticised the planning committee's decision.

In a scathing report published after a two-day inquiry held in October 2022, inspector Dominic Young described the refusal decision as “unreasonable, irrational and injudicious to the extent that no reasonable authority would have made it".

Mr Young’s report also said that, if the rejection was allowed to stand then he would be concerned that Bolton would not be able to meet its need for housing.

Developers Peel L&P had originally hoped Bolton's bid would be made in either 2031 or 2035.

But the company said given the planning delays it needed more time to complete the project and so are now targeting 2035.

Bolton Council's deputy leader, Cllr Akhtar Zaman, who is also the cabinet member for regeneration, said that the tournament could also prove beneficial to the borough’s global prestige and economy for years to come.

He said: “I think that the Ryder Cup will really put Bolton on the world stage, it will bring over 1,000 jobs and there are 1,000 homes which will really help with our housing shortage.”

The Ryder Cup was last played in England at The Belfry in 2002. The Sutton Coldfield venue is also expected to bid for the 2035 match, alongside the London Golf Club and Luton Hoo, with Spain expected to stage the match in 2031.

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