OUTRAGE AT EXCESSIVE LODGE DEVELOPMENT

Whiston Action Group is staggered to see the inclusion of a proposed 250 holiday lodges on the former Moneystone Quarry site in the current draft Churnet Valley Masterplan. This has alarmed local residents who feel the small villages of Oakamoor and Whiston will be totally overwhelmed by thousands of visitors in a completely unsuitable location.

Planning officers, not councillors have come up with this number of lodges, which appears totally without evidential base and at odds with Councillor Sybil Ralphs dream of attaining AONB status for the Churnet Valley. Such large scale development is completely at odds with AONB designation, and may explain why Laver Leisure have demanded that SMDC delete its AONB aspirations!

Whiston Action Group’s Communication Officer, Nick Cresswell, said,

“250 lodges is ridiculous and makes a complete mockery of the AONB application. The Peak Park Planning Authority sets a maximum of 30 units per development, but SMDC planning officers consider the beautiful Churnet Valley to be so unimportant that they are prepared to propose a development more than 8 times this size. Officers have not contacted Staffordshire County Council Highways officers about this proposed development, yet there are huge safety risks involved in dealing with the volume of traffic this development would create, and Highways officers have advised us of the dangers of large volumes of traffic exiting Whiston Eaves Lane onto the A52. Entering the site from Oakamoor would be similarly hazardous.

During the consultation on the options for the Churnet Valley, residents gave a clear message that they wanted only minimal development. As is becoming the norm, the views of residents are being completely ignored, and council taxpayers are being treated with contempt. It begs the question “Why do SMDC have consultation at all?” In my view the process is not transparent and is a pro forma and a box ticking exercise that they carry out to meet statutory planning requirements, then if the answers do not suit the officers views and aspirations, are completely ignored”.

“The scale of the Moneystone development beggars belief. Our narrow country lanes can barely cope with the current level of traffic and this development could see as many as an extra 100,000 vehicle movements per year, which is simply not safe.”

“SMDC officers seem to have just plucked a number out of thin air, without any thought or regard for the safety of residents, or the impact it will have on our two villages.”

“Whiston Action Group urges SMDC councillors to seize back the initiative and demand a re-draft of this proposal so that the number of lodges reflects a genuine attempt to gain AONB status, and, for once, to reflect public opinion!”

SMDC challenged on their plans for the Churnet Valley

The commissioning of a transport company to write an independent report for SMDC has provoked reaction from Whiston Action Group because of the company’s close association with a major developer in the area.

Earlier in the year the Council presented a range of development options for the Valley. The public expressed an overwhelming preference for minimal development, a view at odds with the aspirations of developers.

Before writing the Churnet Valley Masterplan, the Council needed an independent report on the difficult topography and inadequate road infrastructure in the Churnet Valley, issues that are an obstacle to development. The Council selected the “Atkins” company, who wrote a Transport Study that now supports the Council’s plans.

As the Transport Study was such a key document, and needed to be truly independently written, it is very surprising to find out that SMDC chose the “Atkins” company, as Atkins have had a long association with the main developer in the Churnet Valley, namely Alton Towers. Alton Towers have contracted Atkins for many years to do traffic reports in support of their planning applications for new rides and accommodation extensions, a relationship well known to the Council Planning Department.

The general public may justifiably have concerns that a company so closely associated with a main developer has been selected by the Council to do a supposedly independent study.

Nick Cresswell, WAG’s Communications Officer, said:-
“WAG has examined the completed Atkins Transport Study and is concerned at the considerable bias shown in favour of the developers. The study content fails to adequately address key issues relating to Alton Towers that one would expect to be at the forefront of a truly independent study i.e. traffic issues, particularly injury collisions, on the approach routes to Alton Towers. Instead the study focusses on a catalogue of relatively obscure and inconsequential issues, such as suggested traffic delays at Bottom House crossroads of all places, that are not recognised by the public as genuine problems at all. The report has little credibility as an independent study and I would like to know who on earth selected a company so closely tied to Alton Towers. The only way forward is for the report to be re-commissioned, through a truly independent company.”

What’s Happening at the moment – a brief summary

Moneystone Quarry
Several years ago, Staffordshire County Council (SCC ) put in place a requirement for the quarry owner to complete a comprehensive restoration plan to return the land to agricultural and wildlife use within two years of the quarry closing. That deadline has lapsed and WAG expects SCC to take enforcement action against the new owners, Laver Leisure, for failing to complete the restoration work on time.

Instead of doing the required restoration work, Laver Leisure has submitted an application to make major changes to the restoration plan without adequate justification. The changes would involve re-quarrying of huge quantities of spoil material from the back of the houses on Blakeley Lane and transporting it by lorry to the last quarried area to the south side of Whiston Eaves Lane. There have already been numerous public objections to Laver’s application, which is expected to be considered by the Staffordshire County Council Planning Committee on
Monday 07 November 2013. To view the application on the SCC website click on the following link:-

http://apps.staffordshire.gov.uk/CPLand/details.aspx?applicationID=132246

Draft Churnet Valley Masterplan
Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) is currently consulting the public on a Draft Churnet Valley Masterplan that will set out a framework for intended development of tourism in the Churnet Valley. There are concerns that SMDC has ignored the overwhelming public request for minimal development and included proposals for excessive development at numerous sites, including Moneystone Quarry and the highly contaminated site at the old Bolton’s Copperworks.

If you share WAG’s concerns regarding the excessive development that is proposed, you have until 11 November 2013 to make your representations to the Council in writing or by following the following link:-

http://www.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk/sm/news/have-your-say-on-the-future-of-churnet-valley

Core Strategy – Planning Inspector’s Report
SMDC’s long term development plan for the whole of the Staffordshire Moorlands through to 2026, called the Core Strategy, was considered at a public hearing in February by an independent Planning Inspector. The Inspector found that numerous elements of the plan, including proposed tourism development, were “unsound” and required the Council to make changes. Proposed changes have been submitted by SMDC to the Inspector, but they do not reflect the public view. The Inspector is expected to make public his final report in the next few weeks.

The Churnet Valley Masterplan, referred to earlier, depends upon the Core Strategy being approved. WAG hopes the Inspector will dismiss the Core Strategy and insist on SMDC re-starting the process from scratch, this time with genuine public consultation. Want to know more? – please follow the link below:-

http://www.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk/sm/council-services/core-strategy/examination