Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – The Churnet Valley. Letter to District Councillor Elsie Fallows remains unanswered

Councillor Elsie Fallows,

Eavesford Farm,

Whiston

Staffordshire Moorlands,

ST10 2JF

15 Sep 2012

Dear Councillor Fallows,

 Churnet Valley – AONB Status

As you are aware Whiston Action Group (WAG) and the community  at large as demonstrated by responses to the Options Report has concerns over the proposals to develop the Churnet Valley under the Core Strategy and Churnet Valley Master Plan.

One of the key factors in protecting the peace and tranquillity of the Churnet Valley is the issue of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status (AONB).  SMDC’s current failure to actively support an application for AONB status is contrary to the widespread community support and conflicts with the view of other official organisations ready to initiate an application.  SMDC is currently isolated, but has recently agreed to re-consider its position in the light of the concerns expressed by the public during the Options Report consultation.   WAG trusts that you recognise AONB status as a key issue requiring your personal attention as a district councillor representing residents at the heart of the most beautiful part of the valley.  You have a duty to protect our heritage from the excessive development that has been proposed in the Churnet Valley Options Report and we look to you to demonstrate to the community who elected you that you are at one with the overwhelming public response that is resistant to anything other than minimal development.

We understand that you  have family land ownership declarations to make, but those matters do not preclude your active engagement in the debate to press home the views of the people you were elected to represent. We are encouraged by your recently reported view in opposition to the proposed erection of a massive wind turbine at Moneystone and trust that you will be equally enthusiastic in supporting AONB.  Now is the time for you to act and to be seen to act.   WAG and the vast majority of your Churnet Ward residents need re-assurance of your personal aims and goals on this important matter.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

 

Harry Blood

Chairman of Whiston Action Group

No consultation on Housing Proposals for Moorland Villages

Without any public consultation Staffordshire Moorlands District Council has put forward a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), identifying potential plots for house building in Moorlands villages.   The plans are based upon the aspirations of landowners and developers and could influence where houses are built through until 2026.  The SHLAA has been submitted as a last minute addition to the District Council’s Core Strategy plan forwarded to the Government Inspector on 12 September 2012.

 

Whiston Action Group has drawn Whiston residents’ attention to the lack of public consultation via the following newsletter.  Maps for all villages are available for the public to see on the Staffordshire Moorlands web site.  Follow the link  below:-

 http://www.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk/sm/council-services/evidence-base/strategic-housing-land-availability-assessments

 

 

Dear Resident,                                                                                                                                                                 Sep 2012

 

Potential Housing Development in Whiston.

 

  • The map overleaf shows sites in Whiston, where land owners or developers have made approaches to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) expressing interest in building houses.

 

  • As part of the recently published and widely criticised Core Strategy Document, SMDC is required to produce and consult upon a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA). The District Council is currently considering expressions of interest from land owners and developers to decide where houses should be built in the future, but has made little attempt to publically advertise what it is doing.  On your behalf WAG have researched the SHLAA documentation and finds it worrying.  The process by which it is being compiled is very opaque.

 

  • You may care to visit the SMDC website and see for yourself what outline proposals SMDC is considering for our village.

 http://www.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk/sm/council-services/evidence-base/strategic-housing-land-availability-assessments

 

  • WAG has uncovered more detailed information on specific sites, which can be viewed by visiting WAG’s website at

www.whiston-action-group.co.uk  If you find out any more information please contact a member of WAG.

 

  • In the recent past, planning applications have been processed by the district council and even our own local parish council without there being adequate public consultation, which is a matter of serious concern.  It is therefore important that we all know about and engage in future proposals for the village.

 

  • If you have any concerns, now is the time to approach our Councillors and SMDC to ask for information.  You can contact either of our two district councillors,

 

 Elsie Fallows on 07860 188830 or Josie Clowes  on  01538 750377.

 

  • Councillors Fallows and Clowes are the two elected district councillors for our area. Both have the responsibility to make representations on your behalf at District Council meetings. This is your community. You are entitled to know who is planning what and to have involvement directly in the discussions.  So far only landowners and developers have been involved. You might want to ask why.  Do not allow yourself to be fobbed off – demand answers.  Other District Councils are holding public consultations in shaping their SHLAA.   Ask SMDC why they have not asked you?

 

Harry Blood,

Chairman,

Whiston Action Group

 

 

 

Moneystone Quarry – Latest News

Dear Resident,

You may have received a newsletter from Laver Leisure’s agents dated 11 September 2012.  It says that proposals for redeveloping the quarries as a hotel and leisure complex are not yet at a stage for further consultation with the community.

As a related matter Staffordshire Moorlands District Council has consulted on a draft Churnet Valley Masterplan that includes Moneystone.  The overwhelming public response is for minimal change and therefore does not support Laver’s ideas for redevelopment.

Laver purchased the majority of the Moneystone Quarries after Sibelco decided to abandon plans for extending the quarry and mineral processing after being refused permission in 2006 to extract a further 6.5 million tonnes of high quality silica sand.  The shortfall in supply is now made up from their other UK quarries.  Sibelco has kept ownership of the mineral reserves and laboratory at Moneystone, where the high grade silica sand was designated by the British Geological Survey as a scarce national raw material resource in a report commissioned by the County Council of Staffordshire’s Mineral Reserves in 2006.

A comprehensive and enforceable scheme to restore the quarries was agreed by Sibelco with the County Council in 2009 with two years allowed for completion from the time that quarry working finished i.e by 31 March next year.  Laver took on the entire restoration obligation from Sibelco but believes the deadline for completion of restoration is a year later.

WAG has been monitoring developments for some time but there has been nothing positive to tell you until now.  However, the recent news from Laver that it intends to submit a planning application to make changes to the restoration scheme because of  instability of quarry 3 is a surprise.  No public consultation is intended before the application is made.

The approved restoration scheme was put together with the expertise of Sibelco as experienced mineral operators and agreed with County Council experts.  Laver’s proposed change suggests that Sibelco have not been competent in preparing the restoration scheme and that the County Council was negligent in approving the scheme.   WAG does not consider the restoration scheme has any shortcomings but suspects that the reason for any change is to reconfigure the restoration to better suit Laver’s plans for a hotel and chalet complex as part of overall leisure development.

WAG has demanded community consultation before any planning application for a variation to the restoration scheme and is pressing the County Council to ensure that Laver complies with its restoration obligations by the end of next March.  WAG is also pressing for reinstatement of public access via footpaths that were closed when quarrying consents were granted.

We will keep you informed on progress but please contact Nick Cresswell if there is any further information that would be helpful to you.

Harry Blood

Chairman

Whiston Action Group

Quiet Lanes in the Churnet Valley – Road User Survey Report by WAG

Quiet Lanes - safety for all

In 2012, during public consideration of the Churnet Valley Master Plan proposals, Whiston Action Group (WAG) received anecdotal verbal evidence from residents in the lower half of the Churnet Valley expressing concerns regarding tourist visitor related traffic on the area’s narrow country lanes.  The comments included concerns relating to inappropriate speed; inconsiderate driving, and traffic volumes that were considered in conflict with walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

The neighbouring counties of Cheshire and Derbyshire have already helped resolve similar problems in tourist areas by implementation of a “Quiet Lanes” national policy that is available for adoption by all county highway authorities.  The provision aims to encourage vehicle drivers to harmonise more effectively with other road users.    There is the potential for Staffordshire County Council to implement similar schemes on the lanes in the Churnet Valley aimed at encouraging low volumes of vehicles travelling at slow speeds, thereby benefitting walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

 

The concerns expressed by the public were only anecdotal.  Consequently, in the spring/summer of 2012 WAG set out to gather more reliable evidence by conducting a public road user survey in the southern part of the Churnet Valley.

The survey report has now  been completed and forwarded to Councillor Atkins, Leader of Staffordshire County Council, and County Councillor Mike Worthington, who represents the Churnet Valley, to inform their considerations.   The survey coincides with a July 2012 announcement by Mike Penning the Government Road Safety Minister encouraging local highway authorities to cut speed limits on many rural roads.  He was quoted as saying, “It is vital that speed limits are suitable for local conditions and councils are best placed to determine what these limits are, based on local knowledge and the views of the community”.

WAG’s survey results contribute towards establishing the local knowledge base and express the views of local road users.

Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s planning proposals for increased tourism in the Churnet Valley will exacerbate the existing traffic pressures on an area of outstanding natural beauty.  WAG’s hope is that Staffordshire County Council will recognise public concern regarding existing traffic problems in the Churnet Valley and follow the lead of neighbouring counties by introducing simple Quiet Lane cost effective measures as one step in protecting the peace and tranquillity of the Churnet Valley.

A copy of the road user survey report can be viewed via the following link.

Quiet Lanes Survey Report 2012