Petition to save Blackpool's Stanley Park golf course is thrown out by councillors
Labour councillors have rejected a petition signed by more than 8,000 people calling for Blackpool's Stanley Park golf course to be saved from development.
Following a debate at full council - triggered because 2,700 signatures came from the Fylde coast - a motion to take no action in response to the petition was supported by 21 votes to 17, with two abstentions.
The Labour benches voted in favour of continuing with the proposals for a £45m investment in 250 holiday lodges and an Adrenaline World adventure zone on part of the course on East Park Drive.
There were boos from the public gallery at the decision from campaigners who had packed into the public gallery.
Nine holes would be preserved on the west side of the course, with plans for a driving range to be developed.
But Conservative and independent councillors all called for the scheme to be scrapped and warned the town could not afford to lose valuable open space.
The move was branded a "dash for cash" and likened to the "Derby Baths fiasco" which saw the baths demolished in 1990 despite widespread protests.
Coun Paul Galley told the meeting: "When we look at the map of Blackpool, we look at how little green space Blackpool has got."
He said the decision contravened the council's own recently adopted Green and Blue Strategy aimed at preserving open space.
Coun Don Clapham said selling the land to property company Holmes Investment Properties (HIP), which plans to develop it in partnership with leisure entrepreneur David Lloyd, was "a dash for cash".
He called for a rethink and added: "Whenever I drive past this piece of land, I think how beautiful it is."
Independent councillor Gary Coleman said the move also went against the council's recently adopted Climate Change policy to protect the environment.
He warned Blackpool was already one of the most built up towns in the country.
He said: "None of us on this council own Blackpool. We are merely custodians for this town but we do have a responsibility to make decisions that will affect generations yet to be born."
Coun Coleman added: "If this development is given the go ahead, it will go down in infamy to a level not seen since the Derby Baths fiasco."
But Coun Neal Brookes said it was "a misnomer" to consider the space as public land because it was mainly only used by golfers.
He said many golf courses were now struggling to maintain membership and that holes on the east side of the Stanley Park course were often unplayable in winter.
Coun Brookes said: "We talk about generations to come when actually what is being proposed, if it comes to fruition, will provide employment all year round in an area that needs to be developed."
Earlier members of the golf course had marched from Stanley Park to the town hall where they packed into the public galleries to listen to the debate.
Petition organiser Christine Parker addressed the council, urging them to listen to the thousands of people who wanted to save the course.
She said the Ian Woosnam Golf Academy was prepared to step in and run the course for free, and added people feared the land would fall into deriliction before it was developed.
Ms Parker said: "We were naturally quite distraught at the outset and there is an emotional element.
"We do fully appreciate the council's intentions to bring new investment into Blackpool but we do not believe it should be in this place."
The council will now continue negotiations with HIP ahead of a planning application being submitted for the scheme at a future date.
The proposals were revealed in August and would see an attraction offering more than 20 indoor and outdoor activities including zip-wires, go-karting, themed mini-golf, wall climbing and virtual reality rooms.
It is said around 100 jobs would also be created.
The course opened in 1925 and was designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie who laid out more than 50 golf courses including Augusta, which is home to the US Masters.
Mack Trading took over the running of the course in 2010. At the time the facility needed a £300,000 investment to plug its finances after suffering a loss of £97,000 the previous year.
The council stepped back in to run the course in October 2018 when Mack Trading went into voluntary liquidation.
The council continued to run the course while it held a procurement process earlier this year to find a new operator.