Planning Application: Moneystone Quarry SMD/2014/0682
Oakamoor Parish Council have reviewed this application and submit the following representations:
It is clear that this is a major concern for the parishioners of Oakamoor and in the view of OPC, for good reasons:
- Safety of Drivers: Access to, and egress from, Moneystone Quarry is via a narrow lane, and from the Oakamoor Village, negotiation of a 1 in 5 hill (one of the steepest in the country) and blind bends is necessary. The road was clearly not designed to accommodate more than light use. The large increase in vehicle numbers and the change of dynamic of the type of driver the majority of drivers being unfamiliar with the route who will be challenged with negotiating the existing road width, the steep incline, and the acute bends, (exacerbated in severe winter weather, when the road can remain ungritted and snow uncleared for days), will seriously compromise the safety for vehicle occupants. Additionally, the proximity of the site to Alton Towers which may have informed the applicants decision to progress the development in this location will generate further traffic on Carr Bank. We are aware of the applicants assertions that signage will direct traffic from Moneystone to Alton Towers via the A52. We are equally aware that drivers will ignore advisory signage, and rely on incar Satellite Navigation to direct them via the shortest route, via Carr Bank, and Farley Road (already an RTA hotspot). OPC are unaware of any provision for road widening, straightening or levelling, and therefore believe that as a result of the above, the development will pose unacceptable dangers to motorists using this stretch of road.
It should be noted that OPC are aware of three accidents on Carr Bank in the last month.
- Safety of Cyclists and Pedestrians: The terrain of the Churnet Valley and particularly the Oakamoor area attracts high (and growing) numbers of both visiting and local cyclists and walkers. Given the aforementioned access road features, OPC believe that the proposal will seriously compromise the safety of these groups.
- Safety of Horse Riders: We understand that the site neither contains, nor connects with any bridleways. Riders would therefore be forced to utilise the same public highways ie Whiston Eaves Lane and Carr Bank. Again, given the features of this road,OPC believe that this will create significant dangers to persons on horseback.
- Traffic impact on parishioners quality of life: With the continuing exponential growth of Alton Towers, Whiston Eaves Lane / Carr Bank is being increasingly used by visitors (who typically are unfamiliar with the terrain) and workers (who are often racing against the clock) as a rat run to this attraction. This is creating justified anxiety for parishioners who reside on this road. The development of another large attraction, to which access / egress can only be via Whiston Eaves Lane / Carr Bank will obviously increase numbers of vehicles being driven by those unfamiliar with the challenging road conditions both during construction and on completion of the development. This will only further diminish the quality of life for the occupants of dwellings sited on these roads.
- Conformance to the Churnet Valley Masterplan Principles:
- Principle 1: ‘Ensure that communities are at the heart of the Churnet Valley’
Recently OPC held an open day for Parishioners to better understand the application. A questionnaire prepared by the Parish Council was completed by 90% of attendees. Of those who completed the questionnaire, 90% were NOT in favour of the development. If SMDC are to truly conform to the principles of the Churnet Valley Masterplan, then the Parishioners overwhelming view; that the development is inappropriate, should carry sizable weight in the decision making process.
- Principle 2: Respect, enhance and protect the positive aspects of the Churnet Valley :
“by sustaining and enhancing the existing qualities and assets of the Churnet Valley which make the area unique”
“by ensuring that future development responds to and is sympathetic with the environmental, ecological and landscape limits and makes appropriate provision for the management of land and features for nature conservation and heritage and the enjoyment of areas of wildlife and geological interest”
“by ensuring the nature and scale of development is appropriate to its locality this may mean limited or no development is appropriate for parts of the Valley”.
○ The most positive aspects of the Churnet Valley are: its natural beauty, its tranquility, its flora & fauna, its physical and geological assets, and its pretty small villages / settlements which intersperse the natural landscape. To sustain and enhance the natural assets obviously requires careful management of visitor numbers. The proposed development will in one fell swoop double the human habitation of the Southern end of the valley from (and including) Oakamoor to Whiston villages. This will, undoubtedly, dramatically reduce the tranquility of the surrounding countryside, diminish its natural beauty and potentially negatively impact its flora and fauna. It neither responds to, nor is it sympathetic to the environmental, ecological or landscape limits of its surroundings.
○ As previously outlined, many of the roads in and around Moneystone and Oakamoor suffer from very high traffic levels as a result of Alton Towers. Carr Bank & Whiston Eaves Lane remain relatively peaceful, and as a result, form part of the quiet countryside which is seen as such a positive aspect by residents, and the very reason visitors are attracted to this area. It is the view of Oakamoor Parish Council, that the positive aspects of the Churnet Valley must be respected and protected, and that this development runs counter to the aims of this principle.
Given that in the Churnet Valley, the “Family Fun” offer already (in terms of visitor numbers) completely overwhelms the “Countrysiders” segment, and that recorded in the CV Masterplan, the Countrysiders are considered to be the predominant target visitor group, it stands to reason, that no further development of this sector is appropriate for this part of the valley.
- Principle 3: ‘Support local enterprise and create local employment opportunities’
○ Interpreting the CV Masterplan as it is intended, the proposed development is clearly not ‘local enterprise’.
○ The unemployment rate in 2013.14 in the Staffordshire Moorlands was 4.1% , compared with a national average of 7.5%. The number of persons out of work in the Churnet ward in 2011 (latest available figures) was 24.
○ The type of jobs created will broadly mirror those at Alton Towers.
○ The 2012/13 Annual Monitoring Report identifies the need for higher skilled jobs in the Staffordshire Moorlands. OPC believes that the real employment benefits for “local” people are negligible.
- Principle 4: ‘Improve accessibility and connectivity’ : “by addressing traffic hotspots”
As previously outlined in (1), Oakamoor is already suffering substantially increased levels of traffic due to the continuous expansion of Alton Towers. This development will undoubtedly create a “traffic hotspot” in Oakamoor, for which the applicant is unable to proffer any workable solutions.
- Principle 5: ‘Deliver Quality & Sustainable Tourism’
“ by facilitating the development of the Churnet Valley as a visitor destination whilst respecting the environment”
“by promoting increased tourism and economic prosperity without causing harm to essential qualities of landscape, ecology, heritage and remoteness that the Churnet Valley is recognised for”
“by promoting a year round visitor offer and dispersing visitors to increase benefit to the local economy by focusing on quality rather than quantity”
“by giving preference to incremental improvements which support existing businesses”
OPC asserts that the proposed development is inconsistent with all of the above requirements of Principle 5.
- Meeting the needs of the Tourism offer in the Churnet Valley
- The Churnet Valley Masterplan SPD (Sustainable Tourism and the Masterplan Principles section 5.1.18) highlights the importance of the visitor group ‘Countrysiders’ …… ‘ In summary, the focus of the Masterplan should be around attracting ‘Countrysiders’, with or without children, who best fit the offer and are most likely to be attracted by a rural destination, with a distinctive and quality offer…….
- The Churnet Valley Masterplan SPD (Glossary section 11.0.1) defines the term
‘Countrysiders’: Visitors primarily coming for a combination of experiences – activities, discovery / sightseeing, and rest and relaxation . Outdoor activities will be the predominant activity, but the natural environment / scenery will be a key underpinning appeal, [they] will however undertake a range of activities while staying in the area including heritage and natural history and will have a propensity to travel around / explore. They will be staying for an additional holiday / short break – typically in independent accommodation (B&B, self catering) – typical length of stay will be 2 to 3 nights or 6 to 7 nights. Demographically they will primarily be middleaged couples – travelling from a wide area. The Countrysiders are the main backbone of staying visitors to the Moorlands and most closely aligned with the visitor profile of the wider Peak District.
It is the view of OPC that the offer contained in this application, does not fulfill this criteria. Moreover and more disconcerting the development would have a negative impact on the numbers of ‘Countrysiders’ wishing to visit the area, due to the impact whether by traffic, site noise, or sheer numbers of people concentrated in the Southern end of the valley (saturation) on the ‘rest and relaxation’ of the targeted visitor group. If Countrysiders are seen in the Churnet Valley Masterplan as “the main backbone of staying visitors” then the impact of any development which potentially obstructs or negates achievement of this aim should be given very, very careful consideration.
- The NPPF clearly states that “land that has been developed for minerals is not “Previously Developed Land” , therefore, the Quarry is not a brownfield site. The quarry was located due to the presence of silica in the area. No other large scale industry would have been granted permission to operate in this location. Similarly, now economically removable reserves of silica have been exhausted, we believe that Moneystone Quarry should be viewed no differently than an unsullied countryside location.
- There remains an extant restoration plan which we understand is still not complete.
It is the view of OPC, that before any site development proposal is considered by SMDC the restoration plan should be completed.
- Conformance to the Adopted ‘Staffordshire Moorlands Core Strategy’:
The Churnet Valley is identified as an area for sustainable tourism and rural regeneration, and SS7 clearly outlines fundamental principles within this aim:
- “Any development should be of a scale and nature and of a high standard of design which conserves and enhances the heritage, landscape and biodiversity of the area and demonstrate strong sustainable development and environmental management principles. The consideration of landscape character will be paramount in all development proposals in order to protect and conserve locally distinctive qualities and sense of place and to maximize opportunities for restoring, strengthening and enhancing distinctive landscape features. ”
OPC assert that not only, does the proposed development does not support any of these principles, it is in fact contradictory to the underlying tenet contained within this statement.
- The Spacial Strategy for the Staffordshire Moorlands states: “ In the smaller villages there will be limited development only, principally for local housing needs and rural diversification, whilst the countryside areas outside market towns and villages, including hamlets and other small settlements, will be subject to strict control over development with an emphasis on meeting essential rural needs promoting environmental enhancement including landscape and biodiversity, and on encouraging appropriate economic diversification and tourism. In order to facilitate development ‘Infill Boundaries’ will be defined for the smaller villages within which appropriate development would be allowed. Major developed areas in the countryside will also be identified where an appropriate range of uses would be permitted to support rural needs .”
Given that Oakamoor and Whiston are categorised as ‘Small Villages’ OPC would encourage SMDC to view the proposed development within the context of the above statement.
- NPPF Sustainability
- Staffordshire Moorlands Core Strategy SS7 states: “ Sustainable tourism is tourism which takes account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, balancing the needs of visitors, the economy, the environment and host communities. Tourism development must not be at the expense of the special qualities of the Churnet Valley which draw so many people to the area. A very sensitive approach to the provision and expansion of facilities and accommodation will therefore be required to ensure that it is of an appropriate scale and design and compatible with the nature of the local area and enhances the heritage, landscape and ecology of the Churnet Valley”
OPC believe that SMDC should be commended in recognising the special qualities of the Churnet Valley within the Core Strategy and CV Masterplan documents. The challenge now for SMDC regarding this planning application, is to support the rhetoric with appropriate complementary actions. OPC believe that the proposed development, would be best described as “ Of in appropriate scale and design and in compatible with the nature of the local area and diminishes the heritage, landscape and ecology of the Churnet Valley”
- In reviewing the Operation of the National Planning Policy Framework, the Communities and Local Government Committee recently highlighted the following: [ A recurring concern in our evidence was that greater emphasis was being given to the economic dimension of sustainable development than to the environmental and social ones.]
It is the view of OPC, that SMDC have tacitly supported the outline proposals created by the applicant from its inception, whilst maintaining an outward impression of a balanced, open minded, and impartial approach. OPC assert that SMDC have actually been influenced too heavily by the economic dimension, without due consideration being given to the environmental and social impact of such an outsized development. OPC request that SMDC review their approach to this application, with a greater emphasis on an equitable and consistent balance between the three facets of sustainable development as outlined in the NPPF. On completion of this we would postulate that the negative impact on the social and environmental facets would far outweigh the perceived economic benefits.
- Development and Management Principles
The Churnet Valley Masterplan SPD 8.5 Economic Development states: “New employment uses should preferably use existing rural buildings in locations which are well served from the main road network or be located in specific employment areas which are capable of serving businesses. Alternative uses for existing employment areas will only be supported where the premises or site is unsuitable or unviable for continued employment use”.
It is the view of OPC that the proposed development does not meet any of the criteria set out in this principle.
It is clear to Oakamoor Parish Council that the proposed development fails to fulfill so many of the fundamental principles contained within the Churnet Valley Masterplan SPD, the appropriate elements of the Core Strategy, and the NPPF.
We therefore strongly oppose without reservation this planning application.
Jeff Wood, Clerk to Oakamoor Parish Council