SMDC challenged on their plans for the Churnet Valley

The commissioning of a transport company to write an independent report for SMDC has provoked reaction from Whiston Action Group because of the company’s close association with a major developer in the area.

Earlier in the year the Council presented a range of development options for the Valley. The public expressed an overwhelming preference for minimal development, a view at odds with the aspirations of developers.

Before writing the Churnet Valley Masterplan, the Council needed an independent report on the difficult topography and inadequate road infrastructure in the Churnet Valley, issues that are an obstacle to development. The Council selected the “Atkins” company, who wrote a Transport Study that now supports the Council’s plans.

As the Transport Study was such a key document, and needed to be truly independently written, it is very surprising to find out that SMDC chose the “Atkins” company, as Atkins have had a long association with the main developer in the Churnet Valley, namely Alton Towers. Alton Towers have contracted Atkins for many years to do traffic reports in support of their planning applications for new rides and accommodation extensions, a relationship well known to the Council Planning Department.

The general public may justifiably have concerns that a company so closely associated with a main developer has been selected by the Council to do a supposedly independent study.

Nick Cresswell, WAG’s Communications Officer, said:-
“WAG has examined the completed Atkins Transport Study and is concerned at the considerable bias shown in favour of the developers. The study content fails to adequately address key issues relating to Alton Towers that one would expect to be at the forefront of a truly independent study i.e. traffic issues, particularly injury collisions, on the approach routes to Alton Towers. Instead the study focusses on a catalogue of relatively obscure and inconsequential issues, such as suggested traffic delays at Bottom House crossroads of all places, that are not recognised by the public as genuine problems at all. The report has little credibility as an independent study and I would like to know who on earth selected a company so closely tied to Alton Towers. The only way forward is for the report to be re-commissioned, through a truly independent company.”