Moneystone Quarry

Moneystone Quarry mature pond & valuable scrub habitat

Moneystone Quarry

  • Disused sand quarry between Whiston and Oakamoor at risk of excessive development.
  • Older parts of the quarry workings have already naturally regenerated into valuable wildlife habitat.
  • There is an existing restoration plan obligation on the owner to return the quarry to its natural green state for the benefit of the environment.  Staffordshire County Council is the enforcement authority.
  • The current owners want to impose 640 tourist lodges and a 100-120 bed hotel, excessive development that would damage the environment and disrupt local communities.
  • Access along the narrow and winding Whiston Eaves Lane would be unable to cope with traffic from the proposed development.
  • Additional concerns relate to the safety issues on Carr Bank, Oakamoor, from traffic travelling from the development to and from Alton Towers.

At the time of the preparation of this submission a state of much uncertainty and anxiety exists within the area centred upon Moneystone Quarry and which includes Moneystone, WhistonVillage, Oakamoor and Cotton.

The former owners of the site ceased to operate Moneystone Quarry at the end of December 2011 although it is understood that it retains freehold title to the Laboratory Complex on the site and with it presumably a right of ingress and egress. Currently the quarry site is being cleared of redundant plant and machinery.

Moneystone Quarry - settling lagoon, valuable lapwing roost

The formal position is that the site owners in 1996 when applying for the permission to extract silica sand deposits were made the subject of binding written conditions as to the nature and extent of the  restoration of the site. This became officially adopted policy and the restoration of the site to meadow land remains a planning condition.[Planning permission 96/935 refers].WAG are pressing the enforcement authority Staffordshire County Council to ensure and insist upon the full honouring of that restoration and have received written assurances to that effect. [Letter of Paul Wilcox SCC dated 30/6/11 refers].

It is known that the new owners of Moneystone Quarry Laver Leisure {Oakamoor} Ltd. are in discussions with Staffordshire County Council with a view to altering the restoration conditions. WAG representatives continue to monitor the situation in an attempt to ensure that the protection promised to the site is not diluted.

A representative of WAG was able to meet with Mr, Peter Swallow Managing Director of the new owners in August 2010.  He sought and received assurances about the plans for the future use of the quarry site.  It is now a matter of record and of public knowledge that virtually none of the assurances given in August 2010 were demonstrated in the public presentation given at Whiston Village Hall in February 2011.  There have been subsequent attempts to ‘spin’ the reaction of concerned residents and put a positive gloss on the event in the local media.  It very quickly became clear that the proposals had created a great deal of local opposition.

Moneystone Quarry - valuable scrub habitat for migrant birds

The record shows that the public pronouncements Laver Leisure [Oakamoor] Ltd. have made have at times been contradictory and often lacked clarity.  On past assurances residents have every reason not to trust what they are told.  To that end members of WAG and a separate group of residents in Oakamoor prepared, circulated and collated a detailed survey of all residents to discover what, if any, support there was for Laver Leisure [Oakamoor]Ltd. proposals. The results of the survey, detailed in appendix D, and show a virtually unanimous opposition.

The commitment which was incorporated in the extant planning conditions requiring restoration include:

 

  • Restoration of existing and proposed quarrying areas.
  • To include the recreation of a variety of habitats using locally sourced   native and rare species.
  • A comprehensive conservation management plan.
  • Woodlands, hay meadows, wetlands, heath land, hedgerows and the construction of dry stone walls.
  • Restoration to blend in with the surrounding landscape.
  • Creating a variety of new habitats for plants and wildlife.
  • Bat Cave.
  • [That] Environmental promises will be kept [and] overseen in THE PUBLICS INTEREST by S.C.C. [and be] monitored by the Environmental Agency.
  • That there would be a conservation management plan developed for the site.

[source Planning permission SM 96/935; Moneystone Quarry News Sept. 1996]

Laver Leisure {Oakamoor} Ltd. [LL{O} Ltd. Company number 06982054 is a Private Limited liability company incorporated in 2010.   It has a share issue of 100 shares. It therefore has a limited liability to the people or organisations with which it does business of £100.

Assurances have been received by WAG from the previous owners of Moneystone Quarry, SibelcoUK, that LL{O} Ltd. have inherited full responsibility for executing the restoration of the quarry site in accordance with the existing planning conditions.  The duty to ensure that the restoration conditions are met is that of S.C.C. Again WAG has received written assurances from S.C.C. that they will enforce the restoration conditions.  It is entirely unclear what redress, if any, S.C.C. would have in the event that LL{O}Ltd. defaulted in meeting its obligation to restore the site in accordance with the existing conditions.

Given that the full extent of the present owners legal liability to meet the cost of restoration is £100 it is to be hoped that Staffordshire County Council has exercised ‘due diligence’ in ensuring that such an eventuality, however remote it might be, has been covered.  It is not known if Staffordshire County Council has taken a bond payment ‘up front’ to protect the public purse.

Once it became clear in early 2011 what proposals LL{O}Ltd. had in mind for the redevelopment of Moneystone Quarry a team of WAG representatives began a detailed analysis of the public record to establish the nature and extent of contacts, discussions,  offers, commitments etc., there had been between it or its agents and SMDC planners and/or elected representatives of the authority. To that end a series of Freedom of Information Act   applications were submitted.

Despite an unsolicited commitment to ‘open government’ given by Council Leader Councillor Sybil Ralphs at the Cabinet Meeting on 15th November 2011, and her assertion that ‘this authority does not do deals behind closed doors’, all FOIA requests have been rejected and/or ignored and/or failed to disclose the information requested.

Textual analysis of such documentation as WAG members have been able to discover tends to show that representatives and/or agents of the new owners have been in discussions with SMDC officials, well before residents of Whiston or Moneystone, knew of their existence or their proposals for the development of Moneystone Quarry.

A representative of WAG was able to meet with Mr Peter Swallow, Managing Director of the new owners at 3.10pm on the 11/8/2010. He sought and received detailed assurances about LL{O}Ltd’s plans for the redevelopment of Moneystone Quarry.

It is now a matter of public record that virtually none of those assurances have been met. Indeed the consultation exercise held at Whiston Village Hall in February 2011 illustrated many of the features Mr Swallow had expressly ruled out. Subsequent attempts to ‘spin’ the reaction of residents in the media have served only to harden local resolve to resist them. Any degree of goodwill towards LL{O}Ltd. was destroyed by the mismatch between the assurances given and the actuality of the details displayed at the public consultation.

To ensure that WAG was able to democratically represent the views of residents in any future consultations about the proposed developments for Moneystone Quarry a detailed questionnaire was prepared and distributed to every residence in Whiston and Moneystone. The completed forms were then collected and collated. The findings are shown in appendix D.  It was evident that there was overwhelming opposition by residents to the proposals of LL{O}Ltd.

 Issues of disclosure of Information directly relating to the proposed development of Moneystone Quarry.

In the face of refusals/failures by SMDC to be open with residents of Whiston and Moneystone about the nature and extent of any discussions and/or commitments etc., given by either SMDC or LL{O}Ltd. concerning the proposed development at Moneystone Quarry WAG has had to rely upon the very limited material only very lately put into the public domain in an attempt to shape its response to the Churnet Valley Masterplan Options Report of January 2012.  It is noted that residents have barely a month in which to absorb the details of the ‘options’ and their implications for their community, let alone attempt to match the purported ‘evidence’ said to support those options and then submit a coherent response. SMDC on the other hand have had and taken years to produce the document.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests remain outstanding regarding SMDCs obligation to comply with all legal and procedural issues in the preparation of the CVMP Options Report.  What follows is a necessarily abbreviated analysis of such documentary evidence and/or policy which bear upon the future use of Moneystone Quarry.:-

  • The Department for Culture Media and Sport [DCMS] March 2011 Government Tourism Policy [page 14] is built upon a projected growth in national tourism numbers of 3.5% per year for each year up to 2020 [See Delloitte  Forecast].In the new reality of a prolonged market recession such expectations are now shown to be unsustainable across that time scale [a requirement of government policy and the Localism Act].  Current GDP growth for the last quarter of 2011 was shown to be 0.6% and predictions indicate the economy is unlikely to recover before the next Parliament due in 2015 or indeed beyond that date.
  • Government policy states ‘It is imperative that we protect our communities from being blighted by inappropriate or ugly developments and to preserve important and nationally significant historic buildings and landscapes’. [DCMS March 2011 Government Tourism Policy page 38]
  • It further states ‘Any development must satisfy the criteria of being genuinely sustainable development’. [DCMS March 2011 Government Tourism Policy page 39]

NB. National Government failed to define exactly what is meant by the concept of ‘sustainability’ in the Localism Act and has been heavily and extensively criticised for that failure by MPs and national bodies and organisations possessing the expertise to know just what potential legal chaos that failure will cause.  SMDC has adopted its own definition of ‘sustainability’ but so far as the record shows there has been no public consultation with residents upon that self adopted definition.  In the light of the above it is surprising but nonetheless instructive to note that they say of the proposed development by LL{O}Ltd at Moneystone Quarry that ‘it will need to largely create its own market…[and] it is unlikely to survive from existing markets to the Staffordshire Moorlands’[Staffordshire Moorlands Tourism Study 2011 TEAM, page 38].

It is therefore been assessed in accordance with SMDCs own definition as being unlikely to meet the criteria of ‘sustainability’ however it is defined.

 

 

Transport issues and related effects

 

Whiston Eaves Lane - narrow country lane with many bends not suitable for increased traffic

Road links to Moneystone Quarry are very constrained. They are little more than narrow winding country lanes.  A previous survey conducted on behalf of WAG by a Highway Engineer showed that the roads between the A52 and Oakamoor [Whiston Eaves Lane] and between the A52 and Moneystone and Whiston Eaves [Blakeley Lane] have no substrate. The road is made up of an accretion of thin layers of tarmac and pebble washes that have been applied over the years. Inspection of the substantially degraded edges of the roads demonstrate vividly the accuracy of this diagnosis.

Now extraction at Moneystone Quarry has ceased the road between Whiston and Oakamoor and Blakeley Lane has returned to its almost forgotten traditional usage, namely as a lane used by residents to meet their domestic needs.  The ‘baseline’ count of vehicle movements along Whiston Eaves Lane now averages 50 movements per day. These movements comprise private car movements by residents.

  • Peak traffic flows occur between 7am-9.30am and 4.30pm-6pm.
  • One school bus collects and delivers local pupils at a pickup point adjacent to the public telephone box close to the junction with the A52.  The school bus uses the 150 metre section of road between the junction with the A52 and Brookfield Close to turn around, always entering Whiston Eaves Lane and leaving it from the A52.
  • Between 10 and 20 of the daily vehicle movements are accounted for by parents dropping off and collecting school children.

It follows that the accurate baseline usage of the road is very low and the configuration of the road, its surfacing, drainage etc., is not designed to take substantially increased traffic flows.

Whiston Eaves Lane - proposed access road, a narrow winding lane.

Whiston Eaves Lane has very limited street lighting and only has a short run of pavement running for approximately 35 metres between the Old Post Office and Brookfield Close. A previous Section 106 agreement to extend the footpath to the Oakamoor edge of the village was never honoured.  In winter months and at night pedestrians are at risk from vehicle movements along Whiston Eaves Lane. At night pedestrians are wise to carry a torch for their own safety.

At the public display staged at Whiston Village Hall in February 2011 LL{O}Ltd. indicated that they expected their proposed development at Moneystone Quarry to operate throughout the year and to attract 100,000 visitors.

Such a level of usage would:-

  • Fail to meet the obligation placed upon SMDC planning authority ‘to ensure that the quality and character of the wider countryside was protected’[Office of Deputy Prime Minister2004 sustainable Planning Statement- sustainable development in rural areas]
  • Fail to give ‘greater priority to restraining potentially damaging developments [ibid]
  • Fail to ‘give greater weight to the conservation of the natural beauty of the landscape and countryside’[ibid paragraph 21]
  • Fail to reduce the need for travel especially by car’ [ibid Policy Guidance Note 13 paragraph 2] but would seriously increase the need for travel by car because of the sites inaccessibility by Coach or PSV.
  • Fail the IMPERATIVE ‘to protect our communities from being blighted by inappropriate or ugly developments’.
  • Fail to ‘leave the natural environment of [Whiston/Moneystone and] England in a better state than was inherited’ [Natural Environmental White Paper {2011} para2].
  • Fail to ‘enable people to protect green areas that are important to them’  [ibid]
  • Fail to enhance green corridors [ibid].
  • Fail to meet the fundamental aim of Green Belt policy to prevent urban sprawl, keep land permanently open and [maintain] the most important attribute of Green Belt [namely] their openness, [Office of Deputy Prime Minister {1995 amended 2001} Planning Guidance 2 Green Belts paragraph 1.4]
  • Fail the test of sustainable rural  development [Staffordshire Moorlands Tourism Study 2011 TEAM page 38]
  • Fail to ensure that the countryside is protected for the sake of its intrinsic character and beauty, the diversity of the landscape, heritage and wildlife, the wealth of its natural resources…’[DCLG {2009} Planning  policy Statement 4 Policy E6.1]
  • Fail to acknowledge that ‘the topography of the area is challenging for development’.[CV Accessibility and Connectivity Study 2011 page 28.]
  • Fail to acknowledge that the Moneystone Quarry proposals contain provision for caravans, yerts and lodges in visible locations and as such should be discouraged’ [CV Landscape Character Assessment [2011] and paragraph 10.4.9 CVMP baseline Report]
  • substantially increase the impact of vehicle movements associated with the proposed development and [create] pressure to carry out visually intrusive road improvements.’[CV Landscape Character Assessment 2011]

 

How did Moneystone Quarry come to acquire the nomenclature of  ‘Key Opportunity Site’?

It has proved a very difficult, complex and an almost impossible task to discover how and why Moneystone Quarry came by the above designation.  Had SMDC dealt properly with various FOIA requests much time, effort and expenditure by residents would have been saved.  The seeds of the concept can now be shown to arise out of express representations made on behalf of LL{O}Ltd  feeding the concept to SMDC planners as part of a determination to exploit Moneystone Quarry in pursuit of its own financial interests.[The detail is shown below]

The first time Whiston and Moneystone knew of this nomenclature came about almost accidentally.  Less than 24 hours before a ‘visioning event’ was due to take place at Consall Hall Gardens a Kingsley Parish Councillor was telephoned and asked to attend the function on behalf of Kingsley Parish Council.  The Councillor present characterised the event as more of ‘an exercise’ not unlike a multi-choice examination. He and a few other attendees tried to ask questions but where told the event was inappropriate for questions and answers.

Those attending the event at Consall Hall Gardens on 4/3/2011 where almost exclusively characterised by the Councillor as representing private commercial enterprises and were described as ‘Key Stakeholders’. Representative on behalf of LL{O}Ltd were present.  In the course of the meeting of 4/3/2011 a pamphlet entitled ‘Churnet Valley Masterplan’ was displayed. Unfortunately it does not disclose its date of printing so how proximate to the staging of the event it was produced is not known.  The leaflet clearly shows in plan form and in narrative that Moneystone Quarry had already been designated as a ‘Key Opportunity Site’.  Within that version of the pamphlet was set out a heading which reads ‘How will it [the CVMP] be prepared?’ Below that script are a series of boxes describing four stages of preparation. The visioning exercise/event taking place at Consall Hall Gardens appeared in the stage 2 box.

The stage 1 box contained the legend ‘collecting baseline data’. From that information it is clear that the CV Baseline Report had been prepared prior to 4/3/2011.  It must logically follow from the above that SMDC planners, before consulting with district or parish councillors or residents of the Churnet Valley but AFTER consulting with some ‘Key stakeholders’ had already determined, inter alia, to designate Moneystone Quarry as a ‘Key Opportunity site’.

At paragraph 1.6.1 of the CVMP Baseline Report of 2012 it  states..’[Moneystone Quarry] has been identified for further consideration as part of the Masterplan process BECAUSE THERE ARE KNOWN PRESSURES FOR CHANGE IN [this] AREA’[our emphasis].

No evidence is produced to support that assertion or demonstrate any ‘pressure for change’. At that time [and up to the present date]FOIA applications to uncover any evidence remain unanswered.  It can be said with the utmost certainty that no pressure for change at Moneystone Quarry was coming from residents of Whiston or Moneystone who had not been consulted AT ALL by SMDC, though of course they had had the opportunity to see LL{O}Ltd’s displays at Whiston Village Hall in February 2011.

This line of reasoning leads to TWO possibilities about how Moneystone Quarry came to be designated a ‘Key Opportunity Site’ in official planning policy that was showing ‘pressure for change’. These are;

  1. The SMDC planners have themselves devised the concept without any consultation with residents.

Or

  1. The concept comes from LL{O}Ltd or agents acting on their behalf and theirs is the [commercial profit driven ] pressure for change.

Had SMDC dealt openly and fully with the FOIA applications there would have been no need for the above speculation or indeed the atmosphere of doubt and suspicion it has generated.  In the last few days before this document was prepared for printing WAG has uncovered a letter dated 22/1/2010[1] from HOW Planning LLP addressed to  ‘The Head of Regeneration Services’ at SMDC stating that they are acting on behalf Laver Leisure [Oakamoor} Ltd.

The letter states, inter alia,

  • a number of meetings with the Local Planning Authority at varying levels have already taken place and these representations follow those discussions
  • Supports the ‘development of the Churnet Valley Tourism Corridor together with comprehensive proposals for key sites such as Moneystone Quarry…’
  • therefore requests that the Core Strategy vision and objectives reflect the important[2] contribution to the wider area that can be gained from redeveloping the Moneystone Quarry. Furthermore, the emerging policies should incorporate sufficient flexibility to allow the site to come forward for redevelopment…
  • The letter states that ‘we are very keen for the Core Strategy to provide sufficient flexibility to enable the Moneystone Quarry to come forward for future redevelopment WITHOUT HAVING TO OVERCOME SIGNIFICANT POLICY BOUNDARIES WHICH MAY BE SET’ [our emphasis]

[1] Presumably the letter writer means that it is important to his client rather than to the Residents of Whiston, Moneystone and the wider Churnet Valley.

[2] It should be noted that these representations and those made in the preceding meetings ‘at varying levels’ of the Local Planning Authority predate  by more than a year the display mounted by LL{O}Ltd at Whiston Village Hall in February 2011.

Ecology

Moneystone Quarry and the Churnet Valley as a whole have the ability to support important populations of a number of protected and notable flora and fauna species and important habitat types, both at a local and also potentially at a county level of importance.

 A data search from Staffordshire Biological Record Centre has highlighted a range of protected species and habitats from within the quarry itself and its immediate surrounds, although it is considered that these records may be patchy as survey effort is generally only on an ‘as required’ basis and access to land for surveys is sometimes not possible, leading to the surmise that while a number of protected species are listed, a large number of rare species that may be present in the habitats found in the area (particularly invertebrates)  are likely to be under-recorded, and it is probable that data for a number of species that are in the list may be out of date or indeed non-existent if the need to survey for such species has not arisen.  Invertebrates in particular tend to be low on records in general, and it is entirely possible that the Churnet Valley could support populations of such speciesThe Churnet Valley has been proposed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a status that would be richly deserved as it is one of the few remaining areas able to retain its natural attraction to ecologically friendly tourists due to the general lack of development in the area and the small unspoilt, and often historically interesting villages that can be found there.Habitats and Protected/Notable Species HabitatsMoneystone Quarry is surrounded by sites of interest for conservation, either for the habitats contained within them or individual/groups of flora and fauna species present.These include Sites of Special Scientific Interest1)      Whiston Eaves SSSI notified for its meadow habitats and the presence of the bullhead (Cottus gobio).2)      Churnet Valley SSSI notified for its mosaic of habitats and assemblages of rare bird and flora species3)      Froghall Meadows and Pastures SSSI notified for its unimproved grassland characteristics and flushes.In addition to this are a range of National Nature Reserves, Sites of Biological Importance, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves, Biodiversity Alert Sites and areas of Ancient Woodland.While it is understood that these areas would be protected by the development proposals, it is considered that these habitats are important enough to the area to be increased and as Moneystone Quarry is,  by and large, at the centre of all these areas it is possible that with careful management of the emerging habitats following the cessation of quarrying, the quarry can become a biologically important area in its own right and aid in the connectivity of these areas, allowing numerous species to expand into it.Protected and Notable Flora and Fauna SpeciesA number of protected and notable species were given in the records from Staffordshire Biological Record Centre (SBRC), a number of which occur in Moneystone Quarry itself.Species found there include the European Protected Species great crested newt (Triturus cristatus), and also a number of species with protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) including common toad (Bufo bufo); slow worm (Anguis fragilis); grass snake (Natrix natrix); smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris); common lizard (Zootoca vivipara), and birds on the RSPB Birds of Conservation Concern list including jack snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus) and little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), both of which are amber listed species.In the wider area, a number of protected and notable species have been recorded in the vicinity of Moneystone Quarry including otter (Lutra lutra) and freshwater white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) among others.A number of bat species and badger are also recorded in the local area and it is entirely possible that they are using the quarry, although no bat records from the quarry itself were given by  SBRC, and the badger data is confidential so cannot be pinned down to an exact grid reference.Potential Ecological IssuesThe plans to develop Moneystone Quarry would, at the very least, cause disturbance to populations of any protected species present within it through increased human traffic, lighting and noise, and combined with the planned re-opening of the railway line between Moneystone and Alton Towers has the potential to cause disturbance and habitat fragmentation far beyond the boundaries of the quarry itself, most notably to the Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii) and pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus sp.) populations that are known to use the disused railway tunnel in Oakamoor both as a winter hibernacular (SBRC record) and as a summer roost (personal observation).Add to this the possible impact of additional pollution to the local watercourses from increased vehicle traffic and diesel trains, and there is potential for the current proposals to have a large negative effect on flora and fauna populations not only within Moneystone Quarry, but also with further reaching implications throughout the Churnet Valley. The claim that the increased tourism would be of benefit to the economy of the Churnet Valley appears to be limited to the potential for a few jobs to be created in the Moneystone Quarry development, but any further benefits are likely to only be gained by the owners of Moneystone Quarry and Alton Towers at the expense of a delightful part of the British countryside and its wildlife.The original proposal to restore Moneystone Quarry and potentially declare it and its surrounds as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty would also increase tourism to the area, but in a more environmentally friendly way through sensitive use of the area by outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife watchers rather than simply shuttling people between the Moneystone Quarry development and Alton Towers and would result in a more ecologically sustainable use of the Churnet Valley area.Sensitive management of the quarry would enable habitats to be created that could provide highly positive connectivity between the existing areas of conservation importance surrounding the quarry and allow movement of species into other areas that would be unlikely to occur if the current proposals are allowed to go ahead.The restoration of the quarry (as originally agreed) would provide an ideal opportunity to improve the local area, both in terms of its wildlife and residents and for people from the wider area as well as providing scope to generate income for the local area as visitors would be more likely to use local shops, bed and breakfasts, public houses etc. and also valuable education for children and adults alike.Restored quarries are known to be havens for large numbers of species including flora species, invertebrates, herpetofauna, mammals, and not least bird species, particularly wildfowl as the lakes left behind following cessation of work often provide valuable breeding habitats for large numbers of wildfowl species.Employment could be generated in the area by paid workers (and also volunteers) taking part in the active restoration, giving local people a chance to get involved in their area and to gain skills that may otherwise be beyond their reach, potentially leading to worthwhile careers in their field of choice.The opportunities for the local community to benefit from the restoration are not limited to the immediate habitat work and continued management of the site. The area could also, once established, have the potential for the creation of an environmentally designed residential centre for the running of field courses for companies like the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, Joint Nature Conservancy Council and Field Studies Council as well as providing an educational facility for local schools, youth and adult groups alike.Creation of a mosaic of habitats within the site would also mean that it would appeal to specialist groups such as birdwatchers, bat groups and also potentially low-impact sports such as fishing, cycling and kayaking.Potential inclusion of a shop and information centre would mean that day visitors would be more likely to spend additional time in the area, and could be introduced to other local environmental attractions and informed of a range of activities that could be arranged including guided bat walks, badger watching or one day taster courses in field identification for a range of flora and fauna species.The restoration of the quarry and use of it in a way similar to that above would ensure that all residents of the Churnet Valley could make use of the site for leisure activities and that the site would continue to provide a haven for the species that currently inhabit it, and also species that would move in following the restoration.Overall, the restoration would be expected to raise the amenity profile of the area and also increase the biodiversity of the area as a whole, particularly if the restoration could extend to the disused section of railway, linking it to the current restored footpath to the east of Oakamoor.

Toad Crossing at Moneystone Quarry

Toad Crossing at Moneystone Quarry

A mass migration of mating toads has prompted local wildlife supporters to launch a rescue bid.  Members of Whiston Action Group have identified an important toad population in the disused Moneystone Quarry between Whiston and Oakamoor , where large scale development is proposed.   During the quarries operative years, as new parts of the quarry were opened up, the older parts were left to regenerate naturally.  Those older parts of the site have become a haven for wildlife and now attract a wide range of birds, animals and plants.   Of particular importance is a large naturalised pond that’s the main attraction for the toads at this time of year.  Amorous toads from a wide area travel there to breed, as it is a safe undisturbed place where they can mate and lay their eggs.   But the toads are under threat as Nick Cresswell, WAG’s communications officer, explained:-

“The toad main migratory route crosses the access road into the quarry.  What concerns us is that last year, in one day alone, 24 toads were squashed by quarry vehicles.  It’s probable that the accumulation of deaths over the whole migration period, which can last several weeks, amounts to hundreds and affects the breeding success and long term viability of the population.  A phased restoration programme to benefit wildlife, was put in place years ago when planning permission to extract sand was granted and still is a conditional requirement.  Unfortunately, the future of the toads is under threat from the new owners of the site, Laver Leisure, who have extensive tourism development plans for the site.  The high levels of traffic generated by such development would increase the mortality rate considerably and be devastating for the toad population.   Whiston Action Group wants Laver Leisure to complete the restoration plan, so that the toads and all wildlife may continue to enjoy valuable wildlife habitat.”

Members of WAG are exploring issues with the mineral planning officers of Staffordshire County Council, who have the responsibility for enforcing the restoration by Laver Leisure to ensure that they comply with their responsibilities. In addition WAG is liaising with Froglife, a national ecological organisation that co-ordinates recommendations for the registration of toad crossings with the Department for Transport, so that the highway authority can take appropriate measures to warn drivers of high volume toad migration crossing points around the quarry.

Tricia Williamson, a Whiston Wildlife enthusiast, is pictured highlighting the plight of the toads in the main problem area on the access road into Moneystone Quarry.