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What’s Happening?

What’s Happening?

• Proposed tourism development on a large scale in the Churnet Valley without adequate public consultation.

• Laver Leisure proposals for Moneystone Quarry – much public opposition to scale and nature of the proposals.

• District Council Core Strategy – planning policy until 2026 – serious doubts about its legal compliance and soundness.  Secretary of State yet to approve it.

  • Two rounds of public consultation triggered a wave of public criticism of the draft Core Strategy, challenging its legal compliance and soundness.
  • 12 Sep 2012 the District Council submitted the Core Strategy to the Secretary of State for inspection, at the last minute inserting a controversial document called the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), showing sites for proposed housing that had been developed in private with land owners and developers, without any consultation with the public.
  • An inspector from the Bristol based Planning Inspectorate has now been appointed, to whom WAG is making representations.

• Churnet Valley Master Plan – Options Report  –  Just five options were put before the public for consultation none of which are acceptable.

  • Overwhelming public view that only minimal development should take place in the Churnet Valley.
  • The District Council is now selecting one option and writing the draft Churnet Valley Master Plan.


• Draft Churnet Valley Master Plan to be brought forward by the District Council.

• When the Core Strategy and Churnet Valley Masterplan have been approved developers are likely to make planning applications.

Alton Towers

Alton Towers Excessive Traffic

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 is not credible.

Injury collision “hot routes”  are prominant on the approach roads.

High risk factors

  • Narrow country lanes.
  • High vehicle flow rates.
  • Drivers unfamiliar with the area.
  • High proportion of young inexperienced drivers travelling at inappropriate speed.
  • Multiple vehicle occupancy.
  • Passengers often young, excited and eager to arrive, increasing driver distraction risk.

Analysis of data obtained from Staffordshire County Council shows that in the rural areas of the Churnet Valley there is a greater density of injury collisions in the south than in the north with injury collision “hot routes” identified on the approach routes to Alton Towers as follows:-

  1. Between The Star Crossroads at Cotton and Alton Towers main entrance.
  2. On the Cheadle to Alton road.
  3. On the road from Cheadle through Oakamoor to Star Crossroads at Cotton.
  4. Between Alton Village and Alton Towers main entrance.
  5. Over High Shutt on the Cheadle to Oakamoor road.

Road Safety Concerns

Staffordshire County Council, with co-operation from the proprietors of Alton Towers and the local community, has a responsibility to improve the safety situation and reduce the number of injury collisions on the approach routes to Alton Towers.   If such a large scale attraction were to be built today, planning controls would probably locate the venture close to a major motorway intersection providing easy access for vehicular traffic, where high volumes of traffic could be accommodated at low risk.  However, the reality is that Alton Towers is located many miles from motorways and relies upon inadequate narrow country lanes to cope with abnormal volumes of traffic.   The venue attracts people from all across the country.  Many drivers have travelled considerable distances at high speed on motorways to then find themselves channelled onto unfamiliar congested narrow country lanes.  The passengers are often young, excited and eager to arrive at their destination, generating situations where drivers are vulnerable to distractions.

The dynamics of the nature of the journey; multiple vehicle occupancy; narrow country lanes; unfamiliarity of drivers with the area and high traffic flow rates, develop a potentially dangerous cocktail of circumstances resulting in a higher than normal risk of injury collisions.   Taking into account these facts, it is not surprising that the approach routes to Alton Towers show up as injury collision “hot routes”.

It is recommended that the identified risk factors warrant particular consideration by SCC,  in conjunction with appropriate stakeholders,  with the aim of developing early casualty reduction initiatives under the headings of engineering, education and enforcement.  Any proposals to attract more tourists to the venue are cautioned against, unless major infrastructure improvements are introduced to accommodate increased vehicle numbers. Otherwise there is an obvious risk of further increasing the collision and more importantly the casualty rate.

Traffic congestion

Traffic is the main issue for the public.  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 is not credible.

Vehicle Flow

Vehicle flow on the approach routes to Alton Towers shows:-

  1. A marked seasonal increase during the summer period (April to October) that coincides with a summer increase in injury collisions.
  2. The summer hourly peak traffic flow was 50 times greater than the peak on the quietest winter day.
  3. On the busiest summer day on the Cotton side of the main entrance, in the half of the carriageway flowing towards the main entrance, during the busiest hour, a vehicle would have passed you once every 3.5 seconds compared with a vehicle every 3.2 minutes during the busiest hour on the quietest winter day.

An efficient car parking system?

The high flow rates on busy days near the entrance in the summer are indicative of an efficient vehicle car parking management system within Alton Towers that has developed over many years, admitting the maximum number of vehicles in the shortest possible time.  However, anecdotal evidence from local residents suggests that despite its efficiency, the parking system within Alton Towers is often overwhelmed, resulting in traffic backing up from the car parks, out through the main entrance and onto the public road in both directions. Some residents say that the queue can extend all the way through the village of Alton and out on the Denstone road, and in the other direction out to The Star crossroads at Cotton.  The residents suggest that queuing traffic causes serious inconvenience to through traffic, impeding not only local residents, but also emergency service vehicles responding to incidents.  Residents also differentiate between thrill seeking visitors attracted to Alton Towers and the more conventional tourists attracted to the Churnet Valley for its natural beauty and industrial heritage. They assert that traffic volumes generated by the two visitor groups are not complimentary and that conventional tourists, like residents, are inconvenienced by traffic delays emanating from the Alton Towers tail backs.  Some argue that conventional tourists are deterred from coming to the Churnet Valley because of the stories they have heard of Alton Towers traffic problems, and that the problem is inhibiting the growth of conventional tourism in the wider valley.

Interviews with some local residents suggested that at times Alton Towers staff are deployed directing traffic in Alton village, a mile or more away from the main entrance, on the public highway.  If such deployments do take place it is difficult to see where the lawful authority comes from for such private interventions on a public highway.

From an objective analysis viewpoint, other than photographs of queuing traffic, no direct evidence of times and dates when such traffic hold ups have been experienced was available at the time of conducting the analysis, and so it is difficult to comment on allegations of highway obstruction at present.  However, in the future, if SCC were to gather speed data at busy times it would be possible to identify any periods of exceptionally slow moving traffic, thereby establishing facts to either support or refute the allegations on the highway obstruction queuing issue.

Consequently, it is suggested that SCC may wish to consider gathering speed data in the peak summer periods not only at the current monitoring points but also at more widespread locations on the approach routes.  Such data would provide facts to prove or disprove the view of residents that queuing traffic into Alton Towers obstructs the public highway.  Should SCC not have the resources to gather speed data, an option open to residents would be to carry out field observations to time the progression of the tail end of any queue as it extends along the highway, by simply walking with the tail end and noting the time at regular measured reference points. Either evidence gathering procedure would help inform the debate about the impact of Alton Towers on the free flow of traffic.

Alternative Access Route

It is understood that in the past proposals have been considered for a new access road into Alton Towers from the Denstone direction, and, whilst satisfactory options have been developed, little progress has been made owing to funding issues. Such an infrastructure improvement clearly has the potential to alleviate pressure on the existing main access.  In the absence of such a relief road it is difficult to see how further increases in visitor numbers can be safely justified as the vehicle flow rates at peak times into the existing entrance appear to be approaching saturation point.  Indeed, if the numerous allegations by local residents of tailbacks are substantiated, then saturation point has already been reached.

In the absence of an alternative access route being constructed it is difficult to see how further increases in visitor numbers can be accommodated at Alton Towers as the vehicle flow rates at peak times into the existing entrance appear to be reaching if not at saturation point.


  • In response to assertions by local residents of  obstruction of the public highway it is suggested that SCC may wish to consider gathering speed data in the peak summer periods at the current monitoring points and at more widespread locations on the approach routes to shed evidential light on the traffic congestion issue.
  • Plans for a Denstone to Alton relief road should be re-visited in the interests of public safety.
  • Casualty reduction initiatives need to be developed and implemented promptly to combat the current high risk situation on the approach routes to Alton Towers.
  • In the interests of public safety no attempts should be made to attract more visitors to the venue until such time as the high risk situation has been resolved.




• Additional housing provision is best suited closer to employment near the towns of Leek, Biddulph and Cheadle.
• Other than housing to meet local need, additional housing is inappropriate in the Churnet Valley protected areas as it simply adds to commuter traffic on the roads.


Transport & Road Infrastructure Inadequacies in the Churnet Valley

• There is a current reliance on an inadequate network of roads and lanes.
• Concerns are already recognised by the Highway Authority, Staffordshire County Council.
• Despite this the District Council is promoting tourism expansion.
• WAG is in discussions with the Highway Authority on proposals to introduce a network of “Quiet Lanes” in the Churnet Valley under government legislation.
  • WAG is currently planning a public survey to measure support for “Quiet Lanes” to inform more detailed proposals.

Better Tourism not More Tourism

Better Tourism not More Tourism

• Better quality of tourism to maintain the current numbers of tourists.
• Protect the area from the damaging effects of increased numbers.
• Current District Council proposals are at odds with the Government’s guidance.
• Planning policy should encourage development on Brownfield sites around the three towns and not the protected areas of the Churnet Valley.

District Council Failings

District Council Failings

  • District Council failure to adequately consult with residents.
  • Flawed method of identifying Key attractions and opportunity sites.
  • Outside commercial interests have shaped the plans for business profit.

District Council Processes

• 15 Nov 2011  – CV Masterplan Options Report was put before the SMDC Cabinet.
• Despite concerns expressed by Residents at the meeting about the process, contents, ‘evidence’ and conclusions of the Masterplan, the Cabinet approved the document for public consultation.
• 16 Jan 2012 Options Report released for public consultation until 24 Feb 2012.
• On the same date 800 pages of ‘evidence’ posted on SMDC website.
• Five options presented without justification – public expected to comment within an unrealistic time frame.

W.A.G. Probing

• WAG has gathered evidence of the failure of the District Council to follow its own Statement of Community Involvement in the consultation process.
• There are grave concerns about the Core Strategy that may lead to a Public Inquiry.
• Consequently, any further work on the Churnet Valley Master Plan is premature.
• The lack of openness by the District Council has given rise to WAG preparing an alternative plan for consideration, that may be presented to a Government Inspector in his review of the draft Core Strategy.

W.A.G. Assertions

• The entire preparation of a draft Core Strategy and Churnet Valley Masterplan is flawed.
• The lack of supporting evidence and public consultation require that the process should start again from scratch.
• Production of a flawed draft Core Strategy and Churnet Valley Masterplan without full and properly conducted evidence-based research and community involvement renders it open to challenge in the courts.
• WAG invites the District Council to reflect on its processes to date and whether they would be supported by independent scrutiny.