Staffordshire County Council Planning Committee met at Stafford this morning (06 Mar 2014) to consider a Laver Leisure application to change the restoration plan for Moneystone Quarry.
An SCC Planning Officer described how an initial application by Laver in Nov 2012, involving the removal of spoil heaps at the rear of the houses on Blakeley Lane to address a spurious safety issue, had been withdrawn following public representations and a challenge to the Laver view by professional geological consultants. Less provocative proposals, more in line with the original restoration plan agreed between SCC and Sibelco, were now before the committee with the officer’s recommendation for approval.
Nick Cresswell spoke on behalf of Whiston Action Group, drawing attention to the environmental disruption that had been endured by the local community over many years. Nick emphasised that the community had a right to expect immediate action to complete the restoration that was now almost a year behind schedule. He was critical of the failure of Laver Leisure to communicate with residents, a point that was picked up by the committee members, who were surprised by the failure of Laver to continue the Quarry Liaison Group when they took over responsibility for the site.
Committee members took an active role in exploring the background as to why completion of the restoration plan was so long overdue. The failure of Laver to send a representative to the Planning Committee to answer public and committee members’ questions was a frustration to the decision making process.
One of the key issues where Laver’s latest proposals differed from the SCC/Sibelco plan was the retention of the hard standing production area that instead of removing, Laver proposed to cover with tailings from the quarrying process. Councillor David Fowler of Kingsley Parish Council raised concerns that the proposed material was unsuitable owing to the thixotropic instability potential of the tailings, when wet or subject to vibration, that could lead to run off and potential pollution of the River Churnet.
WAG concerns were supported by Mike Worthington, County Councillor for the Churnet Valley, who spoke strongly on several issues, including the need for the County Council to set a firm time scale for the completion of an agreed restoration plan.
Whilst reluctantly approving the revised proposals, the Committee imposed requirements for early completion of the restoration and for officers to progress outstanding issues in relation to Laver’s failure to demolish buildings on the site and to remove the old electricity sub-station. In addition the Committee recommended that Laver re-establish the Quarry Liaison Group as part of their abandoned responsibility to communicate with residents.
After the meeting Nick Cresswell said:-
” On the whole we are satisfied that members of Staffs County Council planning committee are now aware of issues relating to Moneystone Quarry that were not previously in the public domain. Probably the most important of these is the fact that Laver Leisure have not attempted to enter into any form of dialogue with the local community, and kept all their plans for Moneystone Quarry hidden under a cloak of secrecy. The Members were very disturbed that the Liaison Committee folded the minute Laver Leisure took over the site.
I think the fact that Laver Leisure/and or their representatives didn’t bother to turn up for the meeting spoke volumes. That view seemed to be shared by many members of the Planning Committee.
I think the main reason the Planning Committee approved the amended plan was to make sure that the quarry is finally restored in as quick a time period as possible, and I feel they wanted to avoid any more delays by having yet more appeals/amendments to the existing plan.
Many members were extremely critical of Staffs County Council enforcement officers who seem to have been completely ineffective in their approach to Restoration.”