Whiston Action Group has learnt that at recent meeting of SMDC it was revealed that SMDC are to announce  the intention to consider again redrawing the boundaries of village communities and to redefine the limits of greenbelt areas.
Those of you with long memories will recall that without  any notice the village of Oakamoor was arbitrarily redefined as a large village so as to facilitate a proposal to develop a significant number of new housing.
Fortunately when, after the event, Oakamoor Parish Council discovered the change of designation from small village status to large village they were able to force planners to reverse the designation.
The recent proposal to redefine village boundaries and change the greenbelt so as to make it easier for SMDC to meet it’s housing targets is back on the planning agenda and an announcement is awaited.


A ‘new’ planning application number SMD/2015/0220 has been made to SMDC by the same applicants whose earlier application SMD/2014/0432 was rejected by the planning committee on the 26th. February 2015.

At the time of this posting the application which is shown on the SMDC planning website had not been validated, no fee was shown and seemingly no case officer had been appointed.
Because of the complete dearth of any other documentary evidence at this time it is impossible to say how, if at all, application 0220 differs from 0432.
It is abundantly clear that there must have been consultations between the applicants and Officers of SMDC.
You might want to ask about those consultations and inspect the documentation.
The application on the SMDC website mentions both the new application SMD/2015/0220 and the defeated application SMD/2014/0432.
As the time to appeal the refusal of 0432 has not yet expired and it remains open to the applicants to appeal to  Government Planning Inspector the refusal of 26/2/15 and because the application form exhibited on the SMDC website makes reference to both application numbers you are entitled to see the details of any renegotiation between Planning Officers and the applicants because they are relevant to both any prospective appeal and the difference, if any, between the old and the new applications.
You are entitled to use the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act to request the disclosure of information that will or may assist you in deciding what if any representations you might wish to make.
Please remember that as this is a new application any representations you made before will NOT necessarily be considered by Planning Officers in the new application, so if you wish to comment please send in your comments again to cover the detail of any amendments made to the earlier application.
As soon as WAG is able to uncover the detail of any changes to the application it will circulate them so it will pay to keep checking the WAG website.
Please also be aware that there is nothing to stop a planning officer determining SMD/2015/0220 under delegated powers.
WAG would regard any such attempt as a gross denial of democracy.
You may wish to discuss this possibility with your District Councillor who has the power to demand that the application is ‘called in’ so that it is decided by the whole Planning Committee.
Whiston Action Group

Green energy costs ‘far higher than ministers admit’

 Centre for Policy Studies report claims that renewable energy is on course to be “the most expensive domestic policy disaster in modern British history”

Wind power could not deliver energy security, a new report suggests<br />

“The costs of intermittent renewables are massively understated,” the CPS argues. Photo: ALAMY

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Emily Gosden

By , Energy Editor

7:00AM GMT 18 Mar 2015

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The true cost of wind farms and other green power projects is far higher than ministers have admitted, a new Centre for Policy Studies report claims, claiming renewable energy will be “the most expensive policy disaster in modern British history”.

Scrapping the UK’s green energy targets in favour of gas-fired power plants would save consumers £214 a year by 2020, the report suggests – despite ministers’ insistence that the total impact of the policies will be only £141 per household by then.

Wind and solar farms rely on subsidies to be economically viable and the costs of the subsidies are charged to consumers through so-called ‘green levies’ on energy bills.

“The costs of intermittent renewables are massively understated,” the CPS argues, accusing ministers of an unstated policy objective to deliberately “hide the full cost and operational implications” of green power.

As well as subsidies for the wind and solar farms, the CPS report points to the need for dozens of backup power plants to keep the lights on when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.

New wind farms are being built to help tackle global warming

Ministers have been forced to offer additional payments to gas and coal power plants because the intermittent nature of wind and solar power “wrecks the economics of conventional power stations”.

“To keep the lights on, everything ends up requiring subsidies,” the CPS says.

The costs of new cabling to connect up wind farms in remote parts of Britain and far off the coast are also not properly reflected in current assessments, it says.

The “patchwork of interventions” is an unduly costly way of keeping the lights on, the report argues.

It suggests that if ministers want to keep to their green energy targets they should renationalise their construction, so avoiding the need to subsidise private companies to build them for profit. Nationalisation would save consumers £92 a year by 2020, it estimates.

Ministers are backing a vast expansion of green energy under plans to help tackle global warming.

Under EU rules, the UK is required to generate 15 per cent of its total energy – including heat, power and transport – from renewable sources by 2020. In practice, this means 30 per cent of its electricity will need to come from renewables.

Official Government estimates, published last year, show that a typical household now pays £68 a year in green levies to subsidise renewable energy projects and to fund carbon taxes – about 5 per cent on an annual gas and electricity bill of £1,319.

By 2020 minister, the estimates suggest, such levies will hit £141, or 11 per cent of an annual bill of £1,319.

This includes the costs of more wind and solar farms being built and carbon taxes rising, as well as the Government’s estimate of the costs of the new scheme it is introducing to subsidise conventional power plants as backup for intermittent renewables.

A spokesman for the Department of Energy Climate Change said: “The figures in this report don’t add up and ignore the urgent need to cut our carbon emissions. We are making sure we can keep the lights on, cut carbon emissions and keep bills down for consumers.”


Planning Application: Moneystone Quarry SMD/2014/0682

Dear Sir,

Oakamoor Parish Council have reviewed this application and submit the following representations:


  1. Traffic

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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. Site:
  • 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. Summary

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.


Yours Sincerely,



Jeff Wood, Clerk to Oakamoor Parish Council


Government to slash subsidies for large scale solar farms

The government has unveiled proposals to limit the subsidies paid to large solar farms from next April.

Owners of installations bigger than 5 megawatts (MW) will have to compete with other renewables for financing.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (Decc) says it wants to encourage the development of smaller scale and community energy production.

Campaigners have condemned the move, saying it will undermine investor confidence in the renewable sector.

The government wants to draw a close to the current system two years before it was projected to end.

Many parts of Southern England have seen a boom in solar power generation in recent years. There is currently enough photo-voltaic installed capacity to power 620,000 homes.

Land owners have been encouraged to switch to “solar farming”, thanks to a subsidy regime that can earn them around £1,000 per acre per annum for up to 25 years.

The government proposals highlight concerns that this switch to solar is happening far too quickly. They are worried that by 2017 there will be more solar energy being produced than the UK could afford.

Cash fight

Now, in a move that has been trailed for some time, it is set to bring forward a change to the way that solar producers receive financial support.

Under existing regulations, PV installations are subsidised through the Renewables Obligation system.

This “one way” mechanism means that generators get paid regardless of any changes in either the price of electricity or their costs of production.

The government is clearly signalling that it prefers mounted solar panels to ones on the ground

If these costs of production drop, as has happened to solar power over the past four years, there is no way for the government to claw back any of the subsidy.

The government now wants to end this system two years early and make solar installations larger than 5MW compete for subsidies under a new method called “contracts for difference“.

Under the Decc proposals, large scale solar farms would have to fight for cash with what the government calls “established technologies” including onshore wind, energy from waste with combined heat and power and big hydro-electric installations.

Up in the air

The proposals also clearly show a government preference for solar panels to be placed on top of industrial buildings rather than on the ground in fields.

Tariffs paid for building mounted solar panels would decline at a slower rate than for ground mounted panels according to the plans.

Community-owned schemes though will benefit under the proposals, with the government suggesting that the size of solar or onshore wind projects that can benefit from feed-in tariffs be doubled to 10MW.

Solar industry sources though were unhappy at the changes outlined.

“This policy proposal will undermine investor confidence in the entire UK renewable energy sector, by removing at a stroke the short and medium-term policy certainty required for major project investments,” said Seb Berry from Solarcentury.

“Large-scale solar is already significantly cheaper than offshore wind and will be competitive with onshore wind by 2017. In deliberately setting out to strangle the growth of cheaper solar from 2015, Secretary of State [Ed] Davey can no longer claim that government policy will deliver the most cost-effective mix of technologies by 2020.”

Campaigners were also upset, claiming that the government has completely underestimated the potential of renewables.

“Every time a renewable energy technology starts to do well it gets hit by a wave of Government uncertainty, which pushes up costs and threatens jobs and investment,” said Alasdair Cameron from Friends of the Earth.

“Attacking large-scale solar parks, while doing almost nothing to boost rooftop systems, is another sign of this Government’s piecemeal approach to policy making. Solar power is cheap, popular and essential for tackling climate change and energy security.”

Subsidies for solar farms to be cut to help safeguard farmland

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.

Residents demanding protection for the Churnet Valley
Residents demanding protection for the Churnet Valley

Village Boundary Changes?


Helping to Protect the Churnet Valley