CLICK ON THE LINK BELOWTO SEE A LETTER OF 3/10/14 WRITTEN BY A SENIOR TEAM LEADER OF SCC PLANNING, POLICY AND DEVELOPMENT CONTROL TO SMDC ASSOCIATE PLANNER ARNE SWITHENBANK.
YOU MIGHT WANT TO ASK HIM AND YOUR COUNCILLORS HOW IT IS THAT THE PLANS TO DEVELOP MONEYSTONE QUARRY AS A LEISURE THEME PARK ARE BEING RECOMMENDED FOR APPROVAL WHEN A SENIOR PLANNER HAS SO MANY VERY SERIOUS CONCERNS ABOUT THE APPLICATION AND THE STEWARDSHIP OF THE SITE.
DEMAND ANSWERS NOW BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE TO STOP THIS UNACCEPTABLE DEVELOPMENT THAT RESIDENTS DON’T WANT.
DO WE LIVE IN A DEMOCRACY OR NOT ?
Did you know that Laver Leisure were having secret meetings with Council Planners ‘at various levels’ asking them to write the Core Strategy and the Churnet Valley Master Plan ” in a way that allowed them to bring forward Moneystone Quarry as a ‘key opportunity site’, ” as long ago as 2009/10?
Did your Councillors know?
Were the Residents consulted ? Of course not.
To this day SMDC are refusing to release the papers that will show which Council Planners did that to help Laver Leisure foist their plans upon residents.
Don’t you think Residents have a right to know what was promised in their name, without consultation and by unelected and unaccountable planning officers?
WAG encourages you to write and demand answers.
Laver Leisure Planning Application – Laver Leisure have submitted an application to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council for outline planning permission to develop Moneystone Quarry into a leisure facility including 250 holiday lodges. The development will generate a massive increase in traffic for the villages of Oakamoor and Whiston on our narrow country lanes. More details on the problems and what you can do to express your views will follow shortly on this web site. To view details of the application visit the Staffordshire Moorlands planning website via the following link.
Solar Panel Array Application – A separate solar array planning application for the quarry has also been submitted and is listed for hearing before the Staffordshire Moorlands Planning Committee at 2pm on Thursday 27 Nov 2014. There are concerns regarding the panels being a visual intrusion into the landscape and fears that damage will occur to the flora and fauna of the site. There is still time to express any concerns you may have by visiting the SMDC website via the following link. A Senior SCC planner raised concerns on 3/10/14 that the plateaux in Quarry 2 which the applicants intend to use to erect part of their solar array cannot be so used as it is in contravention of a scheme of restoration and aftercare that Laver Leisure has so far failed to complete.
Crowtrees Farm Equestrian Centre Application – Laver have currently withdrawn their application to establish an equestrian centre at Crowtrees Farm, but there is no guarantee that it will not be re-submitted in a different format.
A request for support from members of the public concerned about tourism related traffic congestion in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
Some of our councillors don’t appear to accept that existing levels of tourism generate considerable traffic issues at busy times in the Churnet Valley across a variety of routes and hot spot locations, including, Tittersworth, Rudyard, The Roches, Oakamoor and Alton. For some time now Whiston Action Group has been gathering video and photographic evidence of existing traffic congestion throughout the Churnet Valley, showing that encouragement of further traffic pressure on our fragile road infrastructure is inappropriate.
WAG intends to expand and develop the evidence base of what increased tourism is already doing to our roads in the Moorlands, and seeks the support of members of the public. In this day and age of mobile camera technology it is easy to take a photo of any clogged roads you see whilst you are out and about.
WAG asks that you miss no opportunity to take those photos AND IF YOU HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY TO DO SO SEND THE PICTURES DIRECTLY TO COUNCILLOR SYBIL RALPHS AND ANY OTHER COUNCILLORS YOU WANT.
Please keep a note of the date, time and venue of the photos and let WAG know so that the data can be collated. There will be no need to forward the pictures to WAG as long as you preserve your own copy in case it is needed later.
This is an ongoing project and applies throughout the Churnet Valley for the next twelve months. Your contribution can help WAG fight inappropriate council proposals that are likely to exacerbate an already unacceptable situation.
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.”
There is a growing and very disturbing body of evidence that Officers of SMDC are out of control and feel able to ignore a very substantial amount of carefully prepared and detailed factual evidence presented to the Council in response to it’s proposals set out in, not one but two, versions of the Churnet Valley Master Plan.
Officers seem intent on pursuing their own ambitions for the Churnet Valley despite the repeated views of residents that they want ‘ minimum change’. The normal democratic checks and balances on the operation of the Executive seem no longer to apply to SMDC especially where the Churnet Valley Master Plan is concerned.
If Councillors want to retain their seats at the next election it is time that they seize back the democratic controls and despite any commitments Officers might have made to private commercial interests should now insist that it is Councillors,guided by the democratically expressed wishes of the electorate, that exercise the power and control of development in the Churnet Valley.
Councillors should acquaint themselves with the detail of the responses to the so called CVMP consultation, not simply accept the officer filtered executive version, and not allow those representations to be swept aside by the private ambitions of Officers and in the interests of democracy and their own re-election ensure that effect is given to the wishes of the residents who seek to protect the beauty and the environment of ‘our’ valley.
An important planning application is due to come before the Staffordshire County Council Planning Committee on 06 March.
Several years ago, Staffordshire County Council (SCC ) put in place a requirement for the quarry owner to complete a comprehensive restoration plan to return the quarry to agricultural and wildlife use within two years of the quarry closing.
Laver Leisure inherited that responsibility but failed to complete the work. Instead they submitted a planning application in Nov 2012 to make major changes to the restoration plan without adequate justification. The changes would have involved re-quarrying of huge quantities of spoil material from the back of the houses on Blakeley Lane and transporting it by lorry to the last quarried area to the south side of Whiston Eaves Lane.
Over a period of many months, numerous public objections to Laver’s application were made resulting in queries being raised by officers on behalf of the Staffordshire County Council Planning Committee. As a result Laver Leisure has now withdrawn the major elements of their proposed changes, reverting to a position more in line with the original restoration plan. Whiston Action Group still has concerns regarding certain aspects of the latest proposals, such as retention of the hard standing, for which Laver have offered no justification, and continues to monitor the situation closely.
The next step will be the release of the SCC Officer report on the SCC Planning website, which should be available for the public to view from
To view the application follow the following link:-
Council plans to develop an old industrial site are being challenged by residents who claim that the council is ignoring a serious threat to public health from high levels of arsenic and cadmium contamination.
Local people claim that despite a professional study alerting Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) to major contamination concerns, no follow up action has been taken. Instead, the Council is proposing to build houses on the site. Residents say development proposals are being pushed through without adequate regard for public health.
In May 2011 a company called Taylor Young, as part of a study looking at possibilities for development of the old Bolton Copper Works at Froghall, discovered evidence of dangerous contamination from previous industrial processes. Although the evidence of contamination was clear, the limited work undertaken by the company and presented to the Council, was unable to specify precise locations and concentrations of contaminants. Their report recommended to the Council that a more comprehensive examination of the site was needed to establish the precise detail of the contamination.
An extract from the Taylor Young report stated:- “Whilst the additional archaeological study has begun to highlight key issues, it raises fundamental issues of gross contamination, buried structures and ground water contamination. Further more detailed and extensive intrusive ground investigation to confirm general and local sub-soil and groundwater conditions, and nature form and extent of remnant sub-structure, is required.”
Last year, in an effort to assist the Council, local residents gathered information from ex-employees and people living near the contaminated ground, many of whom had valuable information to offer. A detailed dossier of evidence was forwarded to SMDC by the Foxt Action Group. Public expectation was that the Council would initiate an urgent investigation, but nothing appears to have happened.
Instead SMDC is currently asking the public to comment on its own proposals to develop the site and has published precise locations including a 50 bed hotel and 50 houses. Residents are alarmed that decisions are being made on where to build houses without even knowing where the concentrations of contaminants are.
Nick Cresswell of Whiston Action Group said:-
“They’ve got the cart before the horse. Can’t councillors see that the contamination has to be dealt with as a priority before any consideration is given to development? How can they plan to build houses without knowing what public health dangers they are likely to unleash? They’ve had a report and information from local people flagging up that there are real dangers on this site, but seem more intent on pushing forward with development than dealing with the problem. Residents want to see a full investigation of the contamination and it must be by an independent body. We’ve already had a recent problem on a separate issue with this Council commissioning a supposedly independent Transport Study that turned out to be handed to a company with close associations with a main developer. That must not happen again. We want a truly independent report commissioned on the Bolton’s public health risk as soon as possible.”
Members of the public wishing to comment on the Council’s draft Churnet Valley Masterplan that includes development at Froghall and other sites across the Churnet Valley have until 11 November to send in their comments. Details can be viewed on the Council’s website at:-
Whiston Action Group is staggered to see the inclusion of a proposed 250 holiday lodges on the former Moneystone Quarry site in the current draft Churnet Valley Masterplan. This has alarmed local residents who feel the small villages of Oakamoor and Whiston will be totally overwhelmed by thousands of visitors in a completely unsuitable location.
Planning officers, not councillors have come up with this number of lodges, which appears totally without evidential base and at odds with Councillor Sybil Ralphs dream of attaining AONB status for the Churnet Valley. Such large scale development is completely at odds with AONB designation, and may explain why Laver Leisure have demanded that SMDC delete its AONB aspirations!
Whiston Action Group’s Communication Officer, Nick Cresswell, said,
“250 lodges is ridiculous and makes a complete mockery of the AONB application. The Peak Park Planning Authority sets a maximum of 30 units per development, but SMDC planning officers consider the beautiful Churnet Valley to be so unimportant that they are prepared to propose a development more than 8 times this size. Officers have not contacted Staffordshire County Council Highways officers about this proposed development, yet there are huge safety risks involved in dealing with the volume of traffic this development would create, and Highways officers have advised us of the dangers of large volumes of traffic exiting Whiston Eaves Lane onto the A52. Entering the site from Oakamoor would be similarly hazardous.
During the consultation on the options for the Churnet Valley, residents gave a clear message that they wanted only minimal development. As is becoming the norm, the views of residents are being completely ignored, and council taxpayers are being treated with contempt. It begs the question “Why do SMDC have consultation at all?” In my view the process is not transparent and is a pro forma and a box ticking exercise that they carry out to meet statutory planning requirements, then if the answers do not suit the officers views and aspirations, are completely ignored”.
“The scale of the Moneystone development beggars belief. Our narrow country lanes can barely cope with the current level of traffic and this development could see as many as an extra 100,000 vehicle movements per year, which is simply not safe.”
“SMDC officers seem to have just plucked a number out of thin air, without any thought or regard for the safety of residents, or the impact it will have on our two villages.”
“Whiston Action Group urges SMDC councillors to seize back the initiative and demand a re-draft of this proposal so that the number of lodges reflects a genuine attempt to gain AONB status, and, for once, to reflect public opinion!”
WAG welcomes the following request from Karen Seaton of the Churnet Valley Conservation Society, seeking your support for a petition aimed at achieving Area of Outstanding Natural Beautystatus for the Churnet Valley.
Karen Seaton CVCS Spokesperson says:
“We are not so sure that people are aware that the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council Core Strategy was recently rejected by the Government Inspector, who found more than 70% of the points within it to be unsound. We feel that there is a very serious risk that, with the council floundering to complete their strategy documents, time may slip away and we will miss this important opportunity to protect and recognize the valley. We are asking people to contact Staffordshire Moorlands District Council and support us in two requests we have made to them:
1. During the next public consultation phase for the Churnet Valley Master Plan include a simple question: Would you be in support of designating the area as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty?
2. Should it be apparent that the electorate of the area do wish to obtain this important designation for their area, that the District Council fully embraces the potential and opportunities AONB designation offers.
We are undertaking a four week long petition and contacting a range of people and organizations across the county asking that they support our call, and we are asking as many people as possible to contact their County, District, Town and Parish Councillors and ask them to pressurise Staffordshire Moorland District Council into action. “