Moneystone Quarry, Whiston
- WAG’s main focus. Laver Leisure’s proposals are excessive in scale and unacceptable . There are concerns that developers have exercised far too much influence in formulation of the Churnet Valley Masterplan proposals, at the expense of local residents , who have had little if any opportunity to contribute. WAG wants the new owner, Laver Leisure, to comply with the existing and planning requirement to continue the phased restoration of the quarry to agricultural land.
Bolton Copper Works, Froghall
- A site highly contaminated with heavy metal pollutants, that will be very expensive to develop. Despite the District Council being told by experts of the high levels of contamination there is little evidence to demonstrate their concern for public safety. Distrurbance of the ground is likely to present dangers to public health and the wider environment.
- Traffic is the main issue. Inadequate planning control has allowed Alton Towers to expand exponentially over decades with no control on the traffic problems it generates. A proposal to build a relief road from Denstone has been shelved for no apparent reason. The suggestion that opening the railway line to Alton Towers will solve the traffic problem does not have a shred of credibility.
Whilst a valuable and enjoyable venue for such passing canal traffic as it attracts and casual walkers using the tow path and local footpaths there is little if any physical room for expansion. It must be acknowledge that the first developers managed to squeeze the railway and canal facilities into a narrow declivity that already accommodated the River Churnet.
Certainly parking for tourist traffic is severely limited due to the position and topography of the area.
Unfortunately, the canal and railway effectively end at the Site of the Bolton Copper Works.
The site is known to be heavily contaminated by heavy metals and several elderly residents have spoken about the widespread practise in times past of burying waste that was expensive to dispose of safely. The history of the site makes further development problematic. Indeed an application to develop the site with housing, hotel, shops etc., came to an end when planners recommended that the site owner cleared the site of toxic waste before the grant of planning permission That approach by planners was plainly correct and in the interests of public safety. Unfortunately the public record now shows that this firm stance by planners is weakening.1 Freedom of Information Act applications aimed at establishing the facts remain unanswered.
The plans displayed at Ipstones Village Hall on Tuesday 17th January 20122 contain a number of options all of which appear to recommend the building of substantial numbers of houses
alongside or clustered around the present terminal point of the canal. It is submitted that these development proposals are unsuitable in the light of the extremely difficult topography and the contaminated nature of the site. Ingress and Egress onto the steep A52 from Ipstones is always going to be a problem.
A separate issue that is nonetheless important in view of the expressed wish to extend the canal further in the direction of Cauldon Lowe is the road bridge that carries traffic to and
from Ipstones over the canal. Any extension of the canal would [presumably] require the raising of the road to provide sufficient headroom for barge traffic to pass beneath the road
or some other expensive engineering exercise. As canal ownership and management will pass into the hands of private trusts from April 2012 it is very unclear how any such
necessary work would be funded.
However the site at Froghall is viewed, its topography seriously hampers any development that adds to the traffic issues that already c-ause frequent problems in the vicinity of
Cheddleton Flint Mill
The mill itself is unfortunately positioned at a point of the road access that creates both a traffic hazard and a problem if there is to be an increase in public visitor parking. The site is restricted by private land interests that limit the opportunity of enlarging the parking facilities, therefore expansion of tourist visits seems limited to walkers.
Cheddleton, once a pretty and rural community now has the appearance of having already suffered from too much development one of the consequences that current central government policy seeks to protect rural communities against. Whether it can cope with more development is a moot point. It is unclear whether the residents of Cheddleton have been meaningfully consulted about the options concerning development in their
Cheddleton Railway Station
The Churnet Valley Steam Railway is an admirable enterprise. It necessarily suffers from the historical and geographic position it occupies. It was undeniably a valuable link for passengers and freight traffic until such time as the advances in motor vehicle usage robbed it of its economic rational.
The current ‘heritage’ enterprise is becoming a victim of its own success. The road that runs between Station Road Cheddleton and Ipstones is often clogged with traffic seeking to access the nearby Caravan Site and Cheddleton Railway Station itself. The parking facilities at the station are demonstrably unsuitable for the current level of usage on days when the Churnet Valley Railway runs steam trains and it is often dangerous for foot passengers trying to walk along the narrow and twisting road in the vicinity of the station. More and more suitable parking is needed now. If increased numbers of tourist traffic are encouraged, the experience for visitors is likely to be significantly reduced and such benefits as there might now be will degrade.
Before attracting more tourists to visit this facility careful and detailed planning needs to be undertaken and no attempt to attract those visitors should be agreed until clear, precise and enforceable conditions are imposed upon any further development.
Deep Hayes Country Park.
Access to this facility by car is seriously problematic. From the Endon-Leek road the motorist has to turn at a junction with poor sight lines and the additional hazard of a pedestrian crossing. Egress from that junction onto the main line is significantly more dangerous because of poor sight lines towards Endon and also towards Leek where the brow of a steep hill restricts the view of fast moving traffic. A tragic if temporary memorial to a young person killed in an accident within yards of the junction adds emphasis to the difficulty that motorists face.
If anything the access to the Park is substantially worse if approached along the single track road that runs from Cheddleton to the Park. There are road signs either end testifying to its unsuitability for motor vehicles. For these reasons if no other any expansion of tourist access would seem foolhardy. At its present level of usage this facility is currently able to cope.
Parking is of course limited. It is unclear whether the plans to extend the railway usage will affect the facility.
Consall Hall Gardens.
These are located in the North Staffordshire Green Belt. In Staffordshire Moorlands Local Plan the area is designated a ‘Special Landscape Area’ and [in part] a Site of Biological Interest.
The Accessibility and Connectivity Study  identifies a number of constraints on the further expansion of this site. These are;
the need to control public access for management reasons
access can only be by cars. PSV access is non-existent and unsuitable
access to Consall Hall is poor
It is submitted that further development of Consall Hall Gardens is constrained by its very isolated location, it’s very restricted access and the fact that it lies within the Green Belt. The designation of a Site of Special Landscape and it being, at least in part, a Site of Biological Interest further hampers development. There is however clearly an opportunity to expand its access and usage by walkers, cyclists and horse riders without damaging this attractive facility.
Consall Nature Park.
This is a much appreciated facility for walker and nature lovers. Currently it has a good balance of facilities for visitors. Road access is shared, in part at least, by Consall Gardens and traffic accessing the Black Lion Public House on the canal side and is narrow and in parts appropriately controlled by speed humps. How the road access would cope with any significant increase in vehicular traffic is not certain.
Kingsley Bird and Falconry Centre.
Once a more expansive site than presently this laudable facility suffers from the geography of its position. In the past it has been necessary to negotiate a slight redirection of the Staffordshire Way to prevent any conflict between the animals and the public. Sadly without a substantial expenditure, presumably beyond the charitable funds of the site operators increased parking facilities and road conditions will limit this site extending a welcome to many more visitors. The extremely steep position of the Sanctuary already seriously limits physical expansion. Deep incisions into the hillside have been necessary to accommodate the display areas. Walking access across the site is by steep and narrow paths.
Whilst wishing the Sanctuary continued success in the excellent work it already does substantially increasing traffic flows can only damage and detract from the area. Car access from either end of the road is very restricted with a virtually single track road coupled with poor sight lines. At the road junction with the A52 between Kingsley and Froghall the motorist is met by a very steeply descending road from the right and a very limited view
towards Froghall. Pedestrians are similarly at risk.
Froghall Railway Station.
The number of visitors to this site is testimony to the success of the CVR enterprise. Access to the parking facilities and the station itself is via a small junction at a point of the steeply descending A52 Stoke on Trent/ Ashbourne road and at a point where the road crosses over the Railway lines. Motorists not being familiar with the area, find themselves rapidly descending a steep hill, having to negotiate a sharp left hand bend with much
reduced forward visibility, a sharp narrowing of the road where it crosses the bridge, a slightly adverse camber and a need to come to a virtual stop in order to turn right onto the station car park of the station. Access from Kingsley is dangerous. Entry from the direction of Ashbourne is slightly easier. After a steep and dangerous descent down Whiston Bank and after passing the Foxt and separately the Ipstones turns on the right hand side motorist have approximately 100 meters before turning left onto the station car park at the Kingsley end of the bridge. Neither approach is without hazard.
An additional hazard is created by keen ‘steam train buffs’ who invariably occupy the very narrow footpaths over the bridge attempting to secure photographs of the trains in action.
It is submitted that at times when the steam trains are in operation the parking facilities become problematic and ingress and egress significantly increase the danger to other road users.
It is also submitted that if there is to be any increase in tourist numbers firstly there must be careful and detailed appraisal of the risks that will inevitably come with an increased volume of traffic.
It is impossible to deal with issues of Railway station traffic without having regard to future plans for the Bolton Copperworks site that is virtually contiguous with the rail operation.
In the event of any significant plans to increase canal based tourism at the same or related sites this too would need to be factored into any plans.
Bolton Copper Works
Proposals for the development of the now largely defunct site continue to present problems with regard to its future use. The local topography creates a complex set of problems that need to be resolved before development is approved.
The fact that a railway, canal and the river are all squeezed into a narrow declination and all come to a ‘pinch point’ at the foot of the dangerously steep hill that is Whiston Bank on the A52 only adds to the problem. Any
amelioration of these difficulties will be very restricted by the topography and historical position of existing structures. Even allowing for modern techniques of land reconfiguration the cost implications and the resultant traffic chaos that would result from any change of access would be very substantial.
In reality but for the historical accident of the copper site being developed at a time when its product was intended to be transported by canal and rail, not, as now, road, it is difficult to see how planning permission could safely be granted on this site. That may of course be a reason for changing its current use but any such use must be expected to meet the more exacting standard of modern road safety and environmental requirements.
SMDC have tended to treat the future of the Bolton Copperworks as a separate and somewhat self-contained planning problem and it is therefore felt that any detailed submissions about its future should be made in a separate document. Indeed the vast majority of the presentation at Ipstones village hall on 17th January 2012 focused upon the problem that is the Bolton Copperworks site.
At the time of writing this submission it has proved impossible to identify a single resident who would support any of the options put forward in the Masterplan Options Report. The pre-existing toxicity of the site has to be solved before any other plans are approved.
In its Masterplan Options Report and such supporting documentation as has been released to the public the authors of it commit themselves ‘to respect, enhance and protect the positive aspects of the Churnet Valley through ensuring that future development responds to the environmental, ecological and landscape limits….’ ‘By seeking the highest levels of environmental and sustainable technologies’…’through viable land management that
connects to habitats and creates a living landscape…’ by creat[ing] and promot[ing] further biodiversity…’.
Planners could make a good start towards achieving those aims and objectives by making it a first priority to insist upon the detoxification of the Bolton Copperworks site. The Site owners may need to be educated into being good custodians of the land. In the understandable pursuit of profit they are unlikely, especially after the event, to spend money cleaning up a site.
The time to test the will and commitment of a would be developer is to insist that they comply with pre-conditions [and in nearly every case put money up front to ensure that if they fail to meet their obligations the Planning Authority has the finances to make good on the developers failure]. Suffice it to say here that the Churnet Valley Master Plan cannot be successfully concluded without solving the problem of the Bolton Copperworks site.
A major failure of public accountability in developing the options that are put forward for this site, particularly because of the date of the Ipstones public consultation on 17th January 2012 [but which also applies with equal force to all other public consultations programmed,] was the introduction into the public domain a bare 24 hours before the meeting, of what is purported to be 800 pages of ‘evidence’ in support of the Options Report. When the writer asked SMDC representatives present at the Ipstones consultation where the evidence in support of the Option Report was he was told ‘it is too heavy to bring and would take a wheel barrow’. Timing of this type and the huge disregard it displays for the public it is employed to serve displays an arrogance of massive scale and should be condemned.
Froghall Wharf is at this time a pleasant small attraction featuring limekilns and a wharf that has been appropriately restored in the past decade. An un-surfaced and substantial car park and a toilet facility allied to a small information site complete the facilities and provide most of what visiting walkers and canal enthusiasts need.
A small ice cream/shop/ café is run at the canal side and is exactly of the ‘small is beautiful’ type of enterprise that is discussed elsewhere in this document. Adjacent to the canal side are a small number of discreet self-catering cottages. The overall impression is of a well thought out facility that provides exactly the type and character of small scale tourist attraction that does not destroy the very nature of the attraction itself but rather compliments it.
It has the added advantage of attracting to the area the type of visitors most suited to the quiet tranquillity that makes the Churnet Valley such a gem, namely walkers, cyclists, canal enthusiasts and a well balanced mixture of young families and older visitors who value its qualities and are not the ‘thrill seekers’ that so much disrupt some parts of the Churnet Valley.