Consultation Feedback Jan 2022

Posted on: Sat Jan 22 by Tom Barlow

Consultation Feedback Jan 2022

Neill’s Feedback

Hi guys,

You asked us to report back our findings from the consultation event at the De Vere Hotel.

I went on Wednesday afternoon and spent a few hours there. Michael Simmonds (CEO) spent quite a few hours talking to myself and a group of others.

Here’s what I found out from Michael.

Background

Michael and the company are in the business of obtaining land from councils across the country who wish to sell off or lease out their golf courses (which is happening a lot – nationwide).

HIP is attractive because they always retain an element of golf in their plans. Like the proposal here in Blackpool. Many other councils and developers do away with the golf course completely. This is what helped them win their bid here in Blackpool – their commitment to retain and develop the west side of the course.

They have been running the golf course here in Blackpool for roughly two years. They were perfectly entitled to reduce it to a nine-hole golf course as soon as they acquired it. However, they have chosen to keep it running as an 18-hole golf course for as long as possible so people can continue to play.

BOGs Comment

In HIPs last financial statement, they identify that it is their intention to seek our vacant industrial and or commercial units, as these have much lower development costs and planning regulations are not normally required, this contradicts the above statement regarding golf courses. They have advertised in the past that they have acquired many sites across England where they will be building adrenaline world leisure sites, as yet they have not development one new site.

What prior experience do you have of building and running a facility like this?

Very little. However, this is set to be the flagship for a whole number of these developments across the country. As such, they are going to throw everything at this one to make sure it is successful etc.

Michael also explained that developments such as this are new to the UK. They exist a lot more in the USA and Europe where land prices are lower.  Previously, in UK- retail and housing developments were preferred. However, the profitability of these has fallen and now leisure developments are becoming more attractive – hence why this outdoor leisure development concept is now taking place.

Where is the demand for a facility like this/ Where is the evidence, this is sought after?

This was answered using the above info. This facility has not existed before in the UK so hard to measure demand. This company are pioneers of this new leisure style development.

Michael also pointed out that this is two separate business ideas. The adrenaline park and the holiday lodges/ pods. The design and location of the pods/ cabins has not yet been finalised at this stage.

Planning permission maybe given for one side but not the other. If this happened, they would have to review their options.

Who is this facility for?

This cannot exist commercially as a tourist attraction. Tourists only visit for six months of the year. It is designed for local people and tourists.

What does the hospital think?

They are broadly in favour of the development. It will provide a space for their staff to relax during breaks and lunchtimes. Currently, staff cannot encroach onto the course so their options to take a break are very limited. In addition, there will be a special area (adjacent to the hospital – on the lodge’s side of the development- next to the sixth fairway) primarily for hospital staff.

Zoo

Small portion of land will be used by the zoo- possibly for another exhibit or zoo attraction– where the facility is closest to the zoo – The area around the 8th green.

Drainage

There are serious drainage problems. Meaning much of the course near Herons Reach is unplayable for long spells of the year. This makes it unattractive to run as a golf course for any developer.

The drainage problems are deep routed (literally) and will take many millions of pounds of investment to put right. This makes it unfeasible for a golf operator to develop the site as it cannot work commercially with such a large initial investment required. It needs a development like HIP to make the drainage situation commercially viable.

Ecology/ Environmental Impact

Various concerns about this were put forward. Michael simply stated repeatedly that all of the environmental impact survey recommendations as part of the planning process would be implemented. Mitigation measures would be put in as much as possible.

The development does not interfere at all with Salisbury Woodland and there is a buffer zone between the woodlands and the facility. When challenged about the noise/disruption of the construction (there is a Kingfisher in Salisbury woodland– v. sensitive to noise) he referred back to the environmental impact surveys.

The go-karts would be e-karts and therefore cleaner and quieter.

Traffic

Speculation about the fact if all the cabins were full and the karting/ zip line is being used to capacity could have in the region of 600 (from memory) people on site/ 200- 300 cars need to park. Michael mildly disputed these figures. Also said that not everyone would be arriving and leaving by car. In addition, not everyone will arrive and leave at the same time.

Michael referred to various road traffic assessments that would be taking place during the proposal stage. Mitigation factors would be put in where possible to reduce congestion and parking pressures. However, he was a bit vague about what the mitigation might be- there is only one access road.

Additional

One of the assistants there said they’d had about 600 feedback forms submitted so far. They were happy to admit most had been negative and did not back the proposals. Only 10% were positive roughly.

When we were discussing timelines, Michael said the formal planning application is likely to be submitted in “late spring” 2022. He also speculated that we are at least 12-18 months away from spades going into soil etc. That is all subject to the planning application progress etc.

Footnote

A lot of the visitors agreed we don’t have a problem with much of the facility. It is simply in the wrong place. It should be in the town centre amongst the other attractions.

Michael didn’t say this, but we all know the problem! UKAP haven’t necessarily chosen this site. It was simply the site offered to them by the council- that’s the problem! UKAP tried to explain how they can make the site work. However, as we know the council should have never offered this land up to be developed like this by HIP or anyone else!!!

BOGs Comment

In 2019 Alan Cavill the Director for Regeneration at a meeting with the Golf Club informed the meeting that HIP was offered an alternative site at the new Sports Village near the Airport, the offer was declined, Stanley Park was their preferred site. The probable reason for is as you are probably aware building on a brownfield site brings with it many more costs than building on a greenfield site.

Mandy’s Feedback

Today my sister and I went to DeVere Hotel where HIP held their open day for the public to review and discuss the proposed plans for the development of Stanley Park golf course.

I sat with Michael Simmons CEO of HIP for approximately 30 minutes and asked him a range of questions and below is a summary of our conversation:

1.  Why choose East Park Drive green space for this development, which is predominately residential and alongside a major hospital, instead of closer to town and all the current tourist/hospitality amenities and infrastructure?
Answer: Had no response

2.  I’m fully supportive of regeneration projects for my town, but Victoria Hospital is one of the major Heart units in the country with many extremely sick people and the proposed Adrenaline Shed runs alongside this unit.  Round the corner is the Maternity unit which will overlook the holiday lodges.  How are you going to carry out major works with heavy plant machinery without causing disturbance to the Hospital?

Answer: There are ‘acoustic guidelines’ which we will adhere to.  I advised a hospital runs 24/7 when are they going to be able to do the build work, but he had no further response.

3.  The traffic along East Park Drive is already extremely heavy and this development would add to it during the build and then when it’s open to visitors.  Have they consulted Victoria Hospital re the potential additional disruption to the Ambulance Service and Air Ambulance?
Answer: Yes and they are in full agreement to proceed. 

I asked who HIP had spoken to specifically.

He couldn’t answer. 

I pressed him and he said he would find out and let me know, so I gave him my email address.  I won’t hold my breath!!

4.  The development will run alongside Salisbury Gardens which is a protected area, what are they going to do to ensure this area is not damaged/disrupted during development and going forward?
Answer: That area is outside their boundary line.  I advised I was aware of that fact, but that was not my question, how were they going to protect this conservation area? 

He had no further response.


5.  This particular area of Blackpool is notoriously boggy marshland and others have tried and failed to build further along East Park Drive where sewers, drains, gas pipes etc., have disappeared without trace, so what makes them think they can successfully build on this land?
Answer: That will be part of the planning submission. 

So, you’re going ahead with this proposal without any surveyors reports to check that the land can support this development? 

He said surveyors have given the okay but had no further response.

6.  How does this development actually benefit Blackpool residents, because the money to pay for it is through investors and any profits will go directly to them?
Answer:  He had no response

7.  Potentially 150 jobs will be created, will these be recruited locally?  Will you use a local recruitment agency?  How do you expect people to get to work as there is very little public transport on this route?  Are you going to have a large car park somewhere?  That will surely add to the traffic congestion wont it and not very environmentally friendly?
Answer: He had no response to these questions.

8.  How much are you paying Blackpool Council for the land?
Answer: He said I can’t tell you. 

I said can’t or won’t? That’s not acceptable, I’m a Blackpool council taxpayer and have a right to know what my money is being spent on.

Answer: He advised me to make a request under the ‘Freedom of Information Act’ with the council. 

9.  What happens if the money runs out during the build?  What happens to the land then?
 Answer: The Investors are already in place and the money raised. 

He then went on to say that building costs have risen substantially because of the pandemic, so I questioned the validity of his statement that monies were already in place. He said they were insured and if it failed the land would be reinstated to its original form – he then backtracked on that claim and had no further response.

10.  The original proposal was 250 lodges on this site, the drawings now reflect 150, why?
 Answer: because it’s not feasible to fit that many. 

So, what is your tipping point to be profitable?  Surely there has to be a point where you will not be able to make your money back and looking at the flyer you provided it looks around 100 lodges. 

Answer: He had no further response.

11.  You’re taking away green space from local residents for profit, how does that benefit us?
Answer: We’re in this venture it to make money….he had no further response.

Apologies for the length of this email, however I wanted to capture the essence of our conversation.  Fundamentally nothing adds up, he couldn’t or wouldn’t answer the majority of my questions and looked distinctly uncomfortable throughout.

Hope this is helpful to the cause and happy to discuss further if required.

BOGs Comment

The reason Blackpool gave HIP/UKAP a six-year lease is so that they do not need to register a short lease with the land registry, so they can push the deal through without any disclosure. Previous FOIs for information about the lease and the how much rent is being paid, have been turned down on the grounds of commercial confidentiality!