Please see the minutes below of three meetings held between SMDC and HOW Planning representing the developers.
SMDC Planning Applications committee are due to sit on Thursday (15/9/16) to hear SMD/2016/0378 the re-submission of their application to develop Moneystone Quarry into a huge leisure facility. Please all come along and show how much this means to you. The meeting commences at 2pm at Moorlands House, Stockwell Street, Leek ST13 6HQ. Looking forward to seeing you all there.
Laver Leisure were formally refused outline planning permission for their large holiday complex at Moneystone Quarry, in December 2015. Unfortunately this has not been the end of things. In April this year, Laver Leisure submitted an appeal against that decision, which is expected to be heard towards the end of this year. This will be heard by an independent inspector and Whiston Action Group has been working hard to ensure the inspector has all the facts in order to hear this as a fair case.
Then, while the rest of the UK was engrossed in the Brexit referendum, Laver Leisure submitted a revised outline planning application for their holiday complex, supposedly addressing the concerns of the Planning Applications Committee. In reality, the only changes are the movement of 14 lodges from one side of Eaves Lane to the other, the reduction in height of the hub building (from 12 metres to 8 metres) and a no right turn sign outside the entrance to the quarry. In fact this matter has also had its own application submitted as a separate entity. As you can imagine, none of these measures will make any real difference to the actual proposed development, so all previous arguments are still valid. In addition, the no-right-turn sign will only affect those leaving the quarry and certainly not those arriving and are likely to result in 3 point turns on Whiston Eaves Lane or the village hall car park and additional use of Blakely Lane. The number actually using Carr Bank, is likely to remain unchanged. Think what you would do faced with such a sign coming out of the quarry if you wanted to go to Alton Towers.
It is certainly not too late to object to these two planning applications. If you wish to make your voice heard, please visit SMDC’s website and search for applications SMD/2016/0378 and SMD/2016/0388 or follow the links below:-
SMDC PLANNING COMMITTEE REJECTED LAVER LEISURE’S PLAN TO DEVELOP MONEYSTONE QUARRY BY AN OVERWHELMING MAJORITY ON THURSDAY 26/11/15 THEREBY VINDICATING THE VIEWS OF THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE LOCAL RESIDENTS.
WITH A VOTE TO REFUSE THE APPLICATION OF 9-1 AND DETAILED SWINGING CRITICISM OF ON AND OFF SITE ACCESS,TRAFFIC AND SAFETY ISSUES THE COMPANIES PLANS FOR MONEYSTONE QUARRY NOW LOOK BEYOND REDEMPTION.
EVEN THE SINGLE VOTE IN FAVOUR OF THE APPLICATION WAS HEDGED AROUND WITH RESERVATIONS.
THE APPLICANTS INTENTIONS FOR QUARRY 2 WERE SAVAGED BY THE COMMITTEE WHO EXPRESSED THE VIEW THAT IT SHOULD NOT HAVE FORMED ANY PART OF APPLICATION SMD/2014/0682 HAVING THE CHARACTERISTICS OF AN ENTIRELY SEPARATE DEVELOPMENT.
TRAFFIC ON THE RURAL ROAD NETWORK GAVE COUNCILLORS GRAVE CONCERNS AND THEY CLEARLY APPLIED THEIR OWN LOCAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE RURAL ROAD NETWORK IN PREFERENCE TO THE COMPLETELY INEPT TRAFFIC ASSESSMENT OF SCC HIGHWAYS.
AS WITH LOCAL CONCERNS ABOUT SATNAV ACESS TO NEARBY ALTON TOWERS COMMITTEE MEMBERS REJECTED SUGGESTIONS THAT THE MAJORITY OF VISITORS TO THE SITE WOULD IGNORE SATNAV AND FOLLOW INTENDED BROWN SIGNS.
HIGHWAY OFFICERS PRESENT IN THE CHAMBER GAVE A VERY UNCONVINCING PERFORMANCE UNDER QUESTIONING FROM THE COMMITTEE AND PLAINLY HAD A VERY POOR GRASP OF THE LOCAL HIGHWAY AND TRAFFIC CONDITIONS.
COMMITTEE MEMBERS PLAINLY FOUND THEIR VIEWS UNSUPPORTABLE AND HAVING CONSIDERED A RANGE OF CONFLICTING EXPERT TRAFFIC OPINION INCLUDING TWO REPORTS SUBMITTED BY RESIDENTS THEY ROBUSTLY REJECTED THE APPLICANTS TRAFFIC ASSESSMENT.
OTHER MAJOR GROUNDS FOR REJECTING THE APPLICATION INCLUDED INAPPROPRIATE ON AND OFF SITE ACCESS AND SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS AND THE ADVERSE VISUAL IMPACT OF THIS TWO AND THREE STORY DEVELOPMENT THAT WOULD HAVE ADVERSE VISUAL IMPACT ON THE SENSITIVE CHURNET VALLEY AND ON NEARBY LISTED BUILDINGS.
THE LACK OF ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORT OPTIONS WERE CITED BY ALL OF THE COUNCILLORS WHO SPOKE AGAINST THE APPLICATION AS PRESENTING A SERIOUS IMPEDIMENT, AS WAS THE LACK OF ADEQUATE CAR PARKING PROVISION.
INTRUSION OF THE PLANNED DEVELOPMENT ONTO THE TENANCY OF CROWTREES FARM IN BREACH OF THE TENANCY AGREEMENT WAS ALSO RAISED BY SPEAKER DISTRICT COUNCILLOR LINDA MALYON.
OF PARTICULAR CONCERN WAS THE ISSUE OF ACCESS TO AND THE STABILITY OF THE PROPOSALS TO DEVELOP THE SLOPES OF QUARRY 3.
THE OVERLY CONFIDENT GLOSSY PR LEAFLETS AND THE WIDESPREAD PRESS COVERAGE PAID FOR BY THE APPLICANTS IN THE DAYS BEFORE THE COMMITTEE SAT TO DETERMINE THE APPLICATION GAVE A WIDESPREAD IMPRESSION THAT THEY BELIEVED THEY HAD A GUARANTEE OF SUCCESS.
THE DECISION OF INDEPENDENT PLANNING COMMITTEE MEMBERS MUST HAVE BEEN QUITE A SHOCK.
ANYONE WANTING TO KNOW MORE OF THE DETAIL OF THE HEARING CAN FIND THE WEBCAST ON SMDC PLANNING WEBSITE VBY CLICKING ON THE FOLLOWING LINK OR
IS YOUR VILLAGE BOUNDARY ABOUT TO BE CHANGED WITHOUT YOU BEING CONSULTED?
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:
It should be noted that OPC are aware of three accidents on Carr Bank in the last month.
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.
“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.
○ 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.
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.
“ 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.
‘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.
It is the view of OPC, that before any site development proposal is considered by SMDC the restoration plan should be completed.
The Churnet Valley is identified as an area for sustainable tourism and rural regeneration, and SS7 clearly outlines fundamental principles within this aim:
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.
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.
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”
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.
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
New rules will ensure more agricultural land is dedicated to growing crops and food
Farmers will lose their right to claim subsidies for fields filled with solar panels under new plans to ensure more agricultural land is dedicated to growing crops and food. The move will help rural communities who do not want their countryside blighted by solar farms.
Britain has some of the best farmland in the world and ministers want to see it dedicated to agriculture to help boost our food and farming industry that is worth £97 billion to the economy.
The change, which will come into effect from January 2015, will mean that farmers who choose to use fields for solar panels will not be eligible for any farm subsidy payments available through the Common Agricultural Policy for that land.
Environment Secretary, Elizabeth Truss said:
English farmland is some of the best in the world and I want to see it dedicated to growing quality food and crops. I do not want to see its productive potential wasted and its appearance blighted by solar farms. Farming is what our farms are for and it is what keeps our landscape beautiful.
I am committed to food production in this country and it makes my heart sink to see row upon row of solar panels where once there was a field of wheat or grassland for livestock to graze.That is why I am scrapping farming subsidies for solar fields. Solar panels are best placed on the 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial rooftops where they will not compromise the success of our agricultural industry.
The subsidy change will also save up to £2 million of taxpayers’ money each year that won’t be available for these subsidies. The reform follows other government measures designed to end support for solar farms in agricultural fields. The Department for Energy and Climate Change recently announced that renewable energy subsidies for new large-scale solar farms will end next April. This year, the Department for Communities and Local Government amended planning rules to ensure that whenever possible solar installations are not put in fields that could be used for farming.
The changes the government is making are expected to slow down the growth of solar farms in the countryside in England. There are currently 250 installed, with the biggest covering as much as 100 hectares. Under previous plans, the number of fields dedicated to solar farms was set to increase rapidly, with over 1,000 ground-based solar farms expected by the end of the decade across the UK. These changes should help to halt this expansion as it will now become less financially attractive for farmers to install the solar panels.
The decision is part of a drive by environment ministers to ensure that the new Common Agricultural Policy delivers maximum benefits for the English food and farming industry, as well as providing greater benefits for rural communities, the environment and wildlife.
Find out more about how the new Common Agricultural Policy is being implemented in England.
Photo credit: vittavat-a/iStock/Thinkstock
At SMDC planning Committee on 26th. February 2015 WAG successfully fought off an attempt to build a solar farm as part of Laver Leisure plans to develop a Leisure Park at Moneystone Quarry.
The fight is not yet over but this was a major achievement. The fight continues.
Our thanks to all those who supported us. Keep on doing so. Together we can protect the beautiful Churnet Valley.
A large number of residents turned out last Saturday, and braved the treacherous roads to make a strong statement to the decision makers of the Staffordshire Moorlands.
It is clear from the structure of the application and from earlier evidence provided by Officers of the Applicants that it is intended that this application is not a free- standing application but a part of a future wider scheme that the Applicants intend to make to develop Moneystone Quarry as a tourist leisure park. The representations made below and any decisions or recommendations reached by Planning Officers and/or the Planning Committee of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council should be viewed against that wider context.
In so far as the extant application does not set out the detail of that larger application it is submitted that it will be impossible for application SMD/2014/0682 to demonstrate compliance with the detailed provisions of the Authorities Core Strategy Policies and the contents and principles embodied in the Churnet Valley Master Plan [CVMP]. Neither does it demonstrate compliance with the principles of The Aarhus Convention Treaty so far as it relates to the Environment and/or Health, nor to the NPPF and the principles of the Localism Act 2011.
In the representations made below it should be noted that where appropriate they quote the CVMP and as applicable identify the relevant paragraphing. Emphasis has been added as appropriate.
1. The failures referred to below affects the human rights of those entitled to make representations and protect their rights under the Human Rights Act to a family life. The actions of the SMDC planning officers in entering into a prolonged and secret series of meetings with the applicants from approximately 2009 up to the present day and a refusal to disclose the details of those meetings amount to a denial of essential information that undermines the human rights of residents who would wish to make informed decisions about the present application and the linked application SMD/2014/0432.
It is noted that [quote] ‘A number of meetings with the Local Planning Authority [LPA] at varying levels have already taken place and these representations follow these discussions.’ [ HOW letter 22/01/2010 to Head of Regeneration Services SMDC]. The same letter states ‘We are aware that the Core Strategy for the Staffordshire Moorlands is now in an advanced stage and that a consultation exercise was undertaken on the Submission Version of the Core Strategy in May/June 2009. Whilst the Core Strategy is at an advanced stage, we are very keen for the Core Strategy to provide sufficient flexibility to enable the Moneystone Quarry site to come forward for future redevelopment without having to overcome significant policy boundaries which may be set by the Core Strategy.’ At page 2 of the letter it says ‘ The overall intention of the representations is…to promote Moneystone Quarry as a potential tourism and recreational hub…..‘ It is plain that Planning Officers ‘at varying levels’ have written the SMDC Core Strategy [and it is submitted the subsequent CVMP] in a manner that is both secret and intended to advocate the application[s] now made. As such these actions fall outside of the principle role of planning officers, acting as public servants [see SMDC Constitution] to act in the best interests of the public they serve and not to advocate for the private commercial interests of an applicant in ways that the evidence demonstrates. It is submitted that such actions demonstrate a clear intention to harm the human rights of residents.
2. The application is in breach of the provisions of the SMDC Core Strategy and the Churnet Valley Master Plan as set out more particularly herein.
3. The Application is governed, inter alia, by the provisions of the Aarhus Convention Treaty and its direct applicability in English Law under European Law, specifically in relation to any issues of the environment and/or health and is not so compliant.
4. The development site is part of the ‘rich and varied cultural heritage, the development of which has been greatly influenced by the diverse landscape and geology of the area’ and is part of ‘this unique rural historic character that has been mapped as part of the Staffordshire Historic Landscape Characterisation project 2006’ [see para 2.0.7 CVMP 2014]. As such it should be protected by the principles enshrined in the Core Strategy and the CVMP and not developed in the way proposed by this application. The site is also a ‘Special Landscape Area’ and when restored in accordance with the extant restoration plan will be a green field site. In 1996 the then quarry owners working with SCC Mineral Authority on a restoration scheme in a document entitled ‘The restoration vision’ promised residents that ‘ Our aim was to come up with an exciting plan which allowed progressive restoration of older working areas to blend them with the surrounding landscape and to create a variety of new habitats for plants and wildlife‘. We are looking at the possibility of a bat cave once the tunnel on site has become redundant’. The vision continued to stress that the site should not be ‘left with an alien landscape which would not be in keeping with the surrounding Staffordshire countryside.’ It is submitted that the current proposed development plans would produce just such an alien landscape. Residents are entitled to expect that they will get what they have been promised for very many years.
5. To grant the present application would be, or would inevitably result in, a breach of the Development and Management Principles set out in the provisions of paragraphs 8.1, 8.2, 8.3 and 8.4 of the CVMP more specifically set out herein.
Under a heading of ‘A Vision for the Churnet Valley’ at paragraph 4.1, SMDC acknowledges the Churnet Valley [of which Moneystone is an integral part] [is] ‘high quality landscape which is treasured by both the communities who live and work in the area and visitors to it. It will sustain its unique qualities of a diverse and varied environment which is rich in wildlife, heritage, landscape and tourist attractions’ and ‘will be [and already is] widely recognised, locally, regionally and nationally for its high quality landscape and its heritage and wildlife interest’. On the basis that what is not broken should not be fixed it is submitted that to grant the current application would be in breach of the Authorities own policies and it’s commitment to protect the Churnet Valley.
8.Para.2.1.1 CVMP [The] Weakness of promoting this development;
Identified Challenges Paragraph 5.1.6 CVMP
Paragraph 5.1.14 ETC. CVMP
Paragraph 6.8.4 TRANSPORT
Paragraph 6.5. CONSTRAINTS