Tag Archives: Churnet Valley Master Plan

Have your say on Churnet Valley Tourism Policy

 You may or may not be aware that the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s Core Strategy has just undergone its independent review. This document is essentially the plan for all developments until 2026 affecting the whole of the Staffordshire Moorlands. WAG and Churnet Valley Conservation Society objected to the lack of consultation of this document and more specifically section SS7 detailing the plans for the Churnet Valley as a Major Tourism Corridor. As a result of this, the Inspector has asked WAG to re-write section SS7, giving WAG just two weeks to accomplish this task.

WAG are in the process of writing this section, but are not happy to submit the final document without local consultation. Therefore, we would appreciate your comments on the attached questionnaire by 20 February prior to the final submission. We are sorry that this is such a short time to comment on such an important issue, however our hands are tied as this is the inspectors turnaround time. We therefore really appreciate your prompt reply. Your input is greatly appreciated.

Click the following link to open the questionnaire 140213WAGQuestionnaire

Please open, save and  complete the questionnaire and forward it by email to wagsecretary@gmail.com

or by post to

Harry Blood, WAG Chairman,

4 Brookfield Close, Whiston, Staffordshire Moorlands, ST10 2JG

 

Moneystone Quarry – Laver propose to change the Restoration Plan

Laver Leisure has submitted a planning application to Staffordshire County Council Mineral Authority.

You have until  14 December 2012 to consider if you want to make any comments.

Well before the quarry closed, Sibelco, the previous owners, agreed with SCC a plan to restore the quarry to an area of agricultural land and nature conservation within two years of the closure date. The approved restoration scheme was put together with the expertise of Sibelco as experienced mineral operators and agreed with County Council experts.  The plan is still current and Laver Leisure are obliged to comply with it.  They are rapidly running out of time to finish the work by the deadline of 31 March 2013.

Laver Leisure have not made an application to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council to erect holiday lodges at this stage and are unlikely to do so until the Churnet Valley Masterplan is in place.

The application Laver have submitted seeks to make major changes to the restoration plan.   Full details of the application can be viewed by visiting the SCC website www.staffordshire.gov.uk .  If you go to the Planning section, then “View Applications Making the Headlines” you will find the Moneystone application under reference SM.96/935/122 MD4.

WAG does not consider the existing restoration scheme has any shortcomings, but suspects that the reason for any change is to reconfigure the restoration to better suit Laver’s plans for a hotel and chalet complex as part of overall leisure development.   Laver Leisure make a suggestion that there is a risk of instability in Quarry 3, the last hole where quarrying took place, recommending it be partially in filled with massive quantities of material to be taken from Black Plantation and Moneystone Tip, at the back of the houses on Blakeley Lane.  There are concerns regarding the suitability of the material for the intended purpose.

WAG has submitted a comprehensive, technical objection to the application and will be making representations at the planning committee hearing.  Regrettably there is not much time for you to send your comments as Laver Leisure has not shared details of any of the proposals with our local community before sending in the Planning Application.

If you wish to comment on proposed changes to the restoration plan, then you need to send your letter to the following address by 14 Dec 2012.

Mr M. Grundy

Planning Policy & Development Control Manager

Staffordshire County Council

C/o Wedgwood Building (Block A)

Tipping Street

Stafford

ST16 2DH

 

We will keep you informed on progress but please contact Nick Cresswell, WAG Communications Officer, on 07850 336587, if there is any further information that would be helpful to you.

Book now for Planning Inspector’s Pre-Hearing Meeting at Cheadle

An independent Government Planning Inspector is to examine the Core Strategy Document submitted by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council to test whether it is legally compliant and sound.  A date has yet to be fixed for the main hearing in February next year  at Leek, but the Inspector, Mr Patrick Whitehead, is holding a Pre-Hearing Meeting at the Bethel Suite, Tape Street, Cheadle, at 10am on Tuesday 11 December 2012 to discuss the examination procedure and arrangements for the hearing sessions.

WAG welcomes Mr Whitehead’s independent examination.  It follows a flood of representations from the public, many considering that the District Council’s Core Strategy Document has been developed with inadequate public consultation and fails to meet the tests of legal compliance and  soundness.

Any members of the public who made representations to the District Council have until Friday 30 November 2012 to register their intention of attending the Pre-Hearing Meeting on 11 Dec and/or the main hearing in February 2013.  They should contact the Programme Officer, Pippa Home, at Moorlands House, Stockwell Street, Leek, on 0845 129 7777 ext 3705 or by e-mail at ProgrammeOfficer@staffsmoorlands.gov.uk

 

Public Comments on the Churnet Valley Options Report – Meeting at Moorlands House, Leek, 7pm Wed 18 July 2012

The results of the public consultation on the Churnet Valley Master Plan Options Report are to be presented in an officer report to the District Council at 7pm on Wednesday 18th April 2012 at Moorlands House, Stockwell Street, Leek.  Members of the public may observe from the public gallery.

The officer report summarises the 3695 individual comments made by the 226 respondents to the five options for tourism development in the Churnet Valley identified by the council.  The officer report is viewable on the district council’s website via the following link:

https://www.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk/sm/your-council/meetings-agendas-and-minutes/service-delivery-overview-scrutiny-panel-5

Support for the five development options was as follows:-

Refusal to select any of the District Council options                                         26%

Option A Minimal Development                                                                         44%

Option B  Dispersed Development                                                                       6%

Option C Northern Focus                                                                                     12%

Option D Froghall Focus                                                                                        7%

Option E Southern Focus                                                                                       5%

 

The next step is for the officers to write a draft Churnet Valley Master Plan that will need to conform to the council’s Core Strategy (yet to be finalised) and the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  The meeting at 7pm on Wed 18 July 2012 at Leek presents an opportunity for you to listen to how the council receives the officer report.

 

District Council Core Strategy

Your Representations on the Core Strategy – closing date 13 July 2012

 

You may have missed the plans of SMDC to re-consult on the Authority’s plans for Staffordshire Moorlands until 2026.

Representations have to be with SMDC by 13/7/2012 and WAG urges you not to miss the opportunity to have a say in the future of your community.

The test to be met is that the Core Strategy is Legally Compliant and ‘Sound’.

Since representations were made in the period that ended in January 2012 the planning laws and guidelines have changed and it is now necessary to show that ‘Legal Compliance and Soundness’ must now be measured against the provisions of the Localism Act 2011 and the National Planning Policy Framework.  These new provisions are complex and contain many as yet untested concepts.
If any of you would like help in structuring any response that you intend to make to the Core Strategy Document you may find help in the following list of instances of non-compliance identified by WAG:-

 

INTRODUCTION.

In this submission CSD means the Core Strategy Document that is the subject of this submission.

NPPF means the National Planning Policy Framework introduced by the Localism Act 2011.

 

Any paragraph numbers referred to herein are those used in the NPPF 2012.    Because of the format, space and time restrictions placed upon this response and a lack of access and the opportunity to verify the contents of all documents that do or might constitute the CSD the following points, are not in this document, fully argued although some are briefly referred to by way of indication only.  With appropriate time and access to all the evidential base and expertise more detailed submissions can be made.

 

FURTHER SUBMISSIONS ARISING FROM NPPF.

  • The CSD at the date of this submission is neither legally compliant nor sound for the reasons stated in previous submissions by WAG members and it is not compliant with NPPF 2012.
  • Large parts of the CSD fail to meet the criteria set out in the NPPF regarding “sustainable development”.
  • The CSD contains proposals for change which do not meet the criteria that it is “for the better”.
  • The CSD contains proposals that are not “essential to our well-being”.
  • The CSD contains elements that are not “economically  sustainable” as required by the NPPF. For a development to be economically  sustainable it must make a profit and the CSD contains no provision to show how that is to be determined. It therefore fails to meet the criteria as required in the NPPF.
  • The Governments “requirement” is that the CSD is  “relevant”, “proportionate”, and “necessary”. The CSD contains no or no credible and objectively assessable evidence that it meets the requirements of Paragraph 1.
  • The CSD fails in a number ways to promote EU obligations and statutory requirements. For reasons set out above a full recital of the nature and extent of those failings cannot be set out here, but broadly they encompass environmental enforcement legislation, greenbelt issues, toxic waste issues, a failure to support proposals with objectively      assessable evidence, a failure to disclose evidence that relates to a  clear change of policy during the preparation of the CSD arising out of  and as result of private assurances given to “Key Stakeholders” and despite formal and entirely proper and appropriate requests under the Freedom of Information Act [FOI].
  • The CSD fails to use a clear and logical matrix to assess such evidence, if any, that might have been obtained.
  • The CSD fails to comply with the legal provisions set out in the decision making framework set out in the Planning Act 2008.[See   above and later with regard to private assurances given to and the identification of “Key Stakeholders”.]
  • The CSD fails to meet the criteria of “sustainable development” as set out in Resolution 42/187 of the United Nations General   Assembly or the United Kingdoms “Sustainable Development Strategy Securing   the Future”.  In particular it does not demonstrate the “ five guiding principles of sustainable development viz.,

                                     1. Living within the planets environmental limits.

                                     2. Ensuring a strong, healthy and just society.

                                     3. Achieving a sustainable economy.

                                     4. Promoting good governance.

                                     5. Using sound science responsibly.

A few examples of these failings are:-

  1. Lack of consultation with those who are at danger from  contamination and the  removal  of heavy metals from sites where they are known to exist.
  2. The CSD as currently drawn makes no proper provision to remove or reduce the risk to residents from certain specified dangerous sites despite expert evidence that spells out its dangers to publi  health.
  3. MDCs failure to adhere to its own consultation protocol  means that the CSD does not meet the criteria relating to a “just society”.
  • SMDCs failure/ refusal to disclose the evidence of itsconsultation with and any commitments it has made to “Key Stakeholders” in regard to the specific amendments to the CSD that have been made to meet those commitments demonstrates that it is not committed to “promoting good governance” and is therefore not compliant with NPPF.
  • The CSD appears to demonstrate a complete absence of the use of “sound” science.
  • The CSD fails to comply, in some cases at all, with      paragraphs 18-219 NPPF inclusive.
  • The CSD cannot demonstrate that it is “economically sustainable” as it is required to do. For any development to be      economically sustainable it must “make a profit” otherwise it is      demonstrably not sustainable. The CSD contains no provision for showing  how any particular development will meet that criteria. It is submitted  that a combination of the legal doctrines of “Restraint of Trade” and “Commercial Confidentiality” will render the CSD inoperable when any attempt is made to assess whether and if so how any particular development meets the criteria of “economical sustainability”
  • As local communities were not consulted [in some cases a all] and/or in compliance with SMDCs best practice guidelines on the preparation of the CSD it cannot be shown to meet the criteria to “ reflect the communities needs and support its health, social and cultural well-being”. The Leader of SMDC has very recently gone on public record      saying “A Councillors job is to make decisions for the community, no  follow public opinion.” Such an approach underpins the reality that loca  communities are not being consulted properly and/or at all.
  • The CSD demonstrates in specific areas that it does not “  contribute to protecting and enhancing [the] natural, built and historic environment, improve bio-diversity, use natural resources prudently, minimise waste and pollution and mitigate and adapt to climate change including moving to a low carbon [local] economy”. Examples are an  existing failure to manage/mitigate pollution, a failure to demonstrate how it is to move towards a low carbon economy, a failure to produce/ promote/operate traffic management policies that might help achieve these aims.
  • The CSD fails to meet the NPPF requirement that “economic,  social and environmental gains” are being “ sought jointly and  simultaneously”.

The CSD does not contain any objectively assessable evidence of a commitment to “ improve peoples quality of life”

  • The CSD does not demonstrate how it will move from “a net loss of bio-diversity to achieving net gains for nature” or what matrix  will be employed to objectively measure same.
  • The CSD contains no matrix for establishing what constitutes “poor design” and “better design”.
  • The CSD contains no matrix for establishing what constitutes “improving the condition in which people live, work, travel, and take leisure”.
  • The CSD does not demonstrate how it complies with S.38 of  the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and S.70 Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
  • The CSD does not demonstrate that it has “an up to date Local Plan” in place.
  • The CSD does not demonstrate compliance with S.19 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.
  • The CSD is substantially out of date, is based on time  expired data and does not meet “objectively assessed needs and displays a lack of flexibility”.
  • The CSD fails to demonstrate that it can or will restrict development that may endanger sites protected under the Birds and Habitat  Directive Paragraph 119 and/or SSSI, land designated as Greenbelt, Local  Green Spaces, area[s] of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Designated  Heritage Assets.
  • The CSD fails to demonstrate compliance with the requirement to be “genuinely plan-led” and that it “empowers local people to shape their surroundings”. Further in its preparation the CSD has failed to demonstrate “joint working and co-operation with the local community and has expressly refused to allow the public to question the CSD in what was purported to be “village or local conversations/consultations”. Further on he 15th November 2011  at a Cabinet meeting of SMDC an elected represented wrongly represented  those “conversations/consultations” as providing the evidence base upon  which a planning policy document was to be released for discussion on a restricted number of options. When challenged on this matter SMDC refused  to ensure an accurate and balanced record of the representations appeared in the minutes of that meeting.[* see also the quoted remarks of the Leader of the SMDC above]. These matters and others referred to above demonstrate an authority that is unwilling and/or unable to meet the criteria requiring them to “ promote good governance”.
  • The CSD fails to take any or any proper and proportionate account of the roles and character of different areas affected by the CSD  and it is not in any objective way evidence-led or evidence based. In particular it contains provisions specifically written in at the request      of and in order to permit “ Key Stakeholders” the opportunity to damage the Greenbelt contrary to the provisions of the NPPF, such alterations i the then draft CSD being made without consultation of any kind with the      local community.[Documentary evidence exists to support this assertion.]
  • The CSD does not “contribute to conserving and enhancing the natural environment and reducing pollution”. Rather it contains  positive proposals that will, objectively assessed, damage the natural environment, pollute it and/or fail to ensure that pollution is safely removed.
  • The CSD fails sufficiently and in some cases at all to develop policies that encourage the re-use of Brownfield sites and land of      lesser environmental value.[eg insufficient emphasis on locating  development in the “gateway”  towns of Leek, Biddulph and Cheadle and using the power to give “business rate holidays” to help start up small new businesses]
  • The CSD contains few if any significant proposals as to how it will meet its obligations under the provisions of the NPPF to make  use of “ public transport in areas which are or can be made sustainable”.
  • In so far as the CSD contains any statement of “a clear economic vision and strategy” [and it is submitted that it does not in any  objectively assessable way] it is based on purported evidence that is now  substantially out of date and should not be relied upon. Further the brief prepared for the agency that produced the report upon which this aspect of      the CSD relies was such that it predicated the conclusions reached and cannot properly be regarded as “evidence”.
  • The CSD does not contain provision for it to apply the “sequential test” to planning applications.
  • The CSD appears not to contain any or any sufficiently clear and tightly drawn requirement for an “impact assessment” in those situations where one would be required.
  • The CSD contains no logical or enforceable policy to  ensure compliance with the authorities duty to “respect the character of      the countryside”.[In a planning application determined locally only days  before the provisions of the NPPF came into force the Authority purported to apply the principle shortly due to come into force in the Localism Act and the NPPF  namely applying the “presumption in favour of granting” the application before it. Yet it      acted inconsistently and partially by failing to apply the   principles relating to traffic issues and the adverse effects of excessive car usage in an area where there  existed an evident and longstanding nuisance that has “adverse effects on      the character of the countryside”. Neither was there any attempt to promote the principle of moving to a low carbon economy by measures aimed at reducing the impact of motor vehicles.  No attempt was made to promote  or manage the road environment or to promote bio-diversity and no assessment  was made to assess whether the development met the criteria of “economic   sustainability”.  The “pick and mix approach” to the above mentioned  application used by SMDC demonstrates further evidence that the Authority in developing the CSD is not equipped to properly apply the “ Wednesbuy Principles” to the issues of reasonableness and objectivity in so far as  it applies to the criteria set out in the NPPF.
  • The CSD does not demonstrate any or any sufficient and objectively assessable commitment to the NPPF requirement that it must  assess what constitutes “severe residual cumulative impacts”.
  • The CSD fails to demonstrate any or any significant commitment to prioritise pedestrian and cycle movement and is therefore  not compliant with NPPF.
  • The CSD fails to ensure that any sustainable development  is supported by an objectively assessable Travel Plan or to determine what matrix will be used to assess same.
  • The CSD contains no or no significant commitment to mee “the overall need to reduce the use of high-emission vehicles” an  contains no definition of such vehicles and is thereby not compliant wit NPPF.
  • The CSD contains no up to date, evidence-based andobjectively assessable need for “market” and “affordable” housing in relation to distinct and specific local communities as predicated by the scheme of development set out in the Localism Act and the NPPF. Rather SMDC has determined in advance that named communities must accommodate a  pre-specified number of “market” and/or “affordable” homes within a set time frame that has no regard to or survey of existing and available unoccupied properties within specified local communities.
  • The CSD fails to identify and has not annually up-dated  register of “specifically deliverable” sites for development and to make      the details of such a register available to scrutiny by local residents.      Further the following criteria is not met, namely, specifically deliverable sites must “offer a suitable location for development “ now,  and be achievable with a realistic prospect that housing will be deliverable on the site within five years and in particular that      development of the site is viable”. The CSD contains no definition of  “viable” or how such a concept will be compliant with NPPF.
  • The CSD fails to demonstrate a “five year supply of deliverable housing sites” in a way that complies with the scheme and statutory intent of the Localism Act and the NPPF.
  • The CSD fails to demonstrate that SMDC has “work[ed] with  the support of their local communities” in a way that fits with the intent and the scheme set out in the Localism Act and the NPPF. Rather SMDC has expressly  denied local communities “the opportunity to provide the best way of  achieving sustainable development” by misrepresenting the nature of village/local conversation/consultations and denying members of those communities access to such meetings as were held.
  • The CSD contains no “robust and comprehensive policies that set out the quality of development that will be expected in the area”  and which fits within the scheme and intent of the Localism Act and the NPPF.
  • The CSD contains no “understanding and evaluation of its[the separate local communities] defining characteristics”.
  • The CSD in being prepared has failed “to involve all sections of the community in the development of Local Plans”.
  • The CSD contains no provision to ensure a “positive and collaborative approach to the new “Community Right to Build Orders” and is  thus not complaint with NPPF.
  • The CSD contains no provision to “protect public Rights o Way and access to land”. Further and in so far as the national Government has set up a Cabinet Committee to receive evidence and submissions concerning the perceived need to “get rid of red-tape” and that the said  committee has as yet set no date to deliver a report and that national      bodies such as The Ramblers, The National Trust and the CPRE have   expressed concerns to the Cabinet committee about the proposals made by      organisations representing the interests of private land owners, that if      adopted, would remove/reduce the publics access to land, it is imperative  that the CSD contains a clear and unambiguous commitment to “Protect      public Rights of Way and access to land and incorporates in the CSD  documentary evidence of all current and planned Rights of Way and intended access to land under the “right to roam” legislation so as to protect  present and future generations right of access.
  • In specified areas the CSD is not compliant with Government policy on Green Belt and does not meet the provisions of the NPPF.
  • The CSD contains few [if any] plans to “positively enhance the beneficial use of the Green Belt” and is thus not compliant with NPPF.
  • The CSD fails to comply with the NPPF with regard to Mineral extraction.
  • The CSD fails sufficiently and/or at all to “protect and  enhance valued landscapes, geological conservation interests, fails to  recognise the wider benefits of ecosystems, fails to minimise impacts on  bio-diversity at specific sites and to provided for net gains of      bio-diversity and fails to establish coherent ecological networks that are      more resilient to current and future pressures”.
  • The CSD fails to meet, in any objectively assessable way, the duty of SMDC to “minimise pollution and other adverse effects on the  local and natural environment” and is thus not compliant with NPPF.  At specific sites the authority is in breach of its duty to protect the publics health.
  • The CSD demonstrates few if any criteria based policies to protect against developments that would or might affect protected wildlife or geo-diversity sites or landscapes. Further it fails to incorporate the guidance contained in circular 06/2005. It is not compliant with NPPF.
  • The CSD fails to show how it will comply with its duty to ensure that its effects meet the obligation to operate “across local      authority boundaries” and is thus not compliant with NPPF.
  • The CSD fails sufficiently, or at all, to “promote the  preservation, restoration and re-creation of priority habitat, ecological      networks and the protection and recovery of priority species populations      linked to national and local targets and to identify suitable indicators      for monitoring biodiversity. It is thus not compliant with NPPF.
  • The CSD fails to identify sufficiently, or at all, how and      in what circumstances it will meet the “primary objective of conserving or enhancing biodiversity” and is thus not compliant with NPPF.
  • The CSD contains no provision, commitment or scheme to show how and in what circumstances it will adhere to the principles set      out in Part 11A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and is thus not compliant with NPPF.
  • The CSD contains no provision or mechanism to identify and protect “areas of tranquillity” and it thus not compliant with NPPF.
  • The CSD contains no or no sufficient and “positive  strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment      including heritage assets most at risk” and does not comply with the Planning [Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas] Act 1990.It is not  therefore compliant with NPPF.
  • The CSD is not compliant with the provisions of paragraphs 142-149 of the NPPF.
  • The CSD is not compliant with the provisions of paragraphs  150-157 of the NPPF.
  • The CSD is not compliant with paragraph 158 of the NPPF as   it is not based on up to date and relevant evidence of economic, social      and environmental characteristics and prospects of the area.
  • The CSD does not demonstrate how it has complied with its duty to co-operate with neighbouring authorities, public, voluntary, and private sector organisations in a way that meets the criteria of  sustainability set out in the NPPF and is therefore not compliant.
  • The CSD fails to demonstrate its compliance with      paragraphs 163,165, 166 of the NPPF. The refusal of SMDC to say how and by  what criteria it identified “ Key Stakeholders” and the rejection of  requests of individuals and organisations to become “ Key Stakeholders” in the process of planning for the future of local communities demonstrated an unwillingness to commit to the then emerging principles of the NPPF.
  • The CSD fails to demonstrate how it will comply with      paragraphs 173-177 inclusive of NPPF
  • The CSD fails to demonstrate how it will meet its duty to  comply with paragraphs 178-181 inclusive of NPPF.
  • The CSD fails to demonstrate compliance with paragraph 182 of NPPF relating to its duty to co-operate with and observe the legal and  procedural requirements and to show how it meets the obligations of “soundness”.   It is not in any objectively measurable sense “Positively prepared,  Justified, Effective, or Consistent” with national policy.
  • The CSD is not compliant with paragraphs 183, 184, 185 of      NPPF. Officers and elected representatives have misrepresented the      mechanisms, purposes and objectives of processes they have used in      developing the CSD and so have failed in the duty to “put forward a shared  vision of sustainable development” in the local communities within the      schemes and intentions set out in the Localism Act and the NPPF.
  • The CSD is not compliant with paragraphs 188-195 inclusive  as evidenced by the following;
  • Officers have engaged in secret meetings with “Key Stakeholders” during which they have given commitments to prepare the CSD in a manner that furthers the commercial interests of those “ Stake Holders” and have failed to keep any or any accurate notes of such  meetings and/or have failed to disclose the fact of those meetings and the      contents thereof despite proper requests to do so by local residents under  the FOI Act.
  • Reworked the CSD to ensure no obstruction is placed in the way of the commercial interests of those “Key Stake Holders” in bringing  forward plans for developments upon which local communities have been positively denied an opportunity to comment or view any evidence upon  which such commitments have been made.
  • rejected requests from the local community to be considered   “key stakeholders” in the process of preparing the CSD.
  • demonstrated an unwillingness to commit to “ open  governance”
  • The CSD is not compliant with paragraphs 203-207 of NPPF.      The public record demonstrates that SMDC has failed to use its planning      enforcement powers to properly and to adequately protect the historic built environment [e.g. Cotton College]

CONCLUSION

                  For All the reasons set out above and many more too numerous and detailed to set out herein it is submitted that the CSD is not legally compliant or sound.

Moneystone Quarry

Moneystone Quarry mature pond & valuable scrub habitat

Moneystone Quarry

  • Disused sand quarry between Whiston and Oakamoor at risk of excessive development.
  • Older parts of the quarry workings have already naturally regenerated into valuable wildlife habitat.
  • There is an existing restoration plan obligation on the owner to return the quarry to its natural green state for the benefit of the environment.  Staffordshire County Council is the enforcement authority.
  • The current owners want to impose 640 tourist lodges and a 100-120 bed hotel, excessive development that would damage the environment and disrupt local communities.
  • Access along the narrow and winding Whiston Eaves Lane would be unable to cope with traffic from the proposed development.
  • Additional concerns relate to the safety issues on Carr Bank, Oakamoor, from traffic travelling from the development to and from Alton Towers.

At the time of the preparation of this submission a state of much uncertainty and anxiety exists within the area centred upon Moneystone Quarry and which includes Moneystone, WhistonVillage, Oakamoor and Cotton.

The former owners of the site ceased to operate Moneystone Quarry at the end of December 2011 although it is understood that it retains freehold title to the Laboratory Complex on the site and with it presumably a right of ingress and egress. Currently the quarry site is being cleared of redundant plant and machinery.

Moneystone Quarry - settling lagoon, valuable lapwing roost

The formal position is that the site owners in 1996 when applying for the permission to extract silica sand deposits were made the subject of binding written conditions as to the nature and extent of the  restoration of the site. This became officially adopted policy and the restoration of the site to meadow land remains a planning condition.[Planning permission 96/935 refers].WAG are pressing the enforcement authority Staffordshire County Council to ensure and insist upon the full honouring of that restoration and have received written assurances to that effect. [Letter of Paul Wilcox SCC dated 30/6/11 refers].

It is known that the new owners of Moneystone Quarry Laver Leisure {Oakamoor} Ltd. are in discussions with Staffordshire County Council with a view to altering the restoration conditions. WAG representatives continue to monitor the situation in an attempt to ensure that the protection promised to the site is not diluted.

A representative of WAG was able to meet with Mr, Peter Swallow Managing Director of the new owners in August 2010.  He sought and received assurances about the plans for the future use of the quarry site.  It is now a matter of record and of public knowledge that virtually none of the assurances given in August 2010 were demonstrated in the public presentation given at Whiston Village Hall in February 2011.  There have been subsequent attempts to ‘spin’ the reaction of concerned residents and put a positive gloss on the event in the local media.  It very quickly became clear that the proposals had created a great deal of local opposition.

Moneystone Quarry - valuable scrub habitat for migrant birds

The record shows that the public pronouncements Laver Leisure [Oakamoor] Ltd. have made have at times been contradictory and often lacked clarity.  On past assurances residents have every reason not to trust what they are told.  To that end members of WAG and a separate group of residents in Oakamoor prepared, circulated and collated a detailed survey of all residents to discover what, if any, support there was for Laver Leisure [Oakamoor]Ltd. proposals. The results of the survey, detailed in appendix D, and show a virtually unanimous opposition.

The commitment which was incorporated in the extant planning conditions requiring restoration include:

 

  • Restoration of existing and proposed quarrying areas.
  • To include the recreation of a variety of habitats using locally sourced   native and rare species.
  • A comprehensive conservation management plan.
  • Woodlands, hay meadows, wetlands, heath land, hedgerows and the construction of dry stone walls.
  • Restoration to blend in with the surrounding landscape.
  • Creating a variety of new habitats for plants and wildlife.
  • Bat Cave.
  • [That] Environmental promises will be kept [and] overseen in THE PUBLICS INTEREST by S.C.C. [and be] monitored by the Environmental Agency.
  • That there would be a conservation management plan developed for the site.

[source Planning permission SM 96/935; Moneystone Quarry News Sept. 1996]

Laver Leisure {Oakamoor} Ltd. [LL{O} Ltd. Company number 06982054 is a Private Limited liability company incorporated in 2010.   It has a share issue of 100 shares. It therefore has a limited liability to the people or organisations with which it does business of £100.

Assurances have been received by WAG from the previous owners of Moneystone Quarry, SibelcoUK, that LL{O} Ltd. have inherited full responsibility for executing the restoration of the quarry site in accordance with the existing planning conditions.  The duty to ensure that the restoration conditions are met is that of S.C.C. Again WAG has received written assurances from S.C.C. that they will enforce the restoration conditions.  It is entirely unclear what redress, if any, S.C.C. would have in the event that LL{O}Ltd. defaulted in meeting its obligation to restore the site in accordance with the existing conditions.

Given that the full extent of the present owners legal liability to meet the cost of restoration is £100 it is to be hoped that Staffordshire County Council has exercised ‘due diligence’ in ensuring that such an eventuality, however remote it might be, has been covered.  It is not known if Staffordshire County Council has taken a bond payment ‘up front’ to protect the public purse.

Once it became clear in early 2011 what proposals LL{O}Ltd. had in mind for the redevelopment of Moneystone Quarry a team of WAG representatives began a detailed analysis of the public record to establish the nature and extent of contacts, discussions,  offers, commitments etc., there had been between it or its agents and SMDC planners and/or elected representatives of the authority. To that end a series of Freedom of Information Act   applications were submitted.

Despite an unsolicited commitment to ‘open government’ given by Council Leader Councillor Sybil Ralphs at the Cabinet Meeting on 15th November 2011, and her assertion that ‘this authority does not do deals behind closed doors’, all FOIA requests have been rejected and/or ignored and/or failed to disclose the information requested.

Textual analysis of such documentation as WAG members have been able to discover tends to show that representatives and/or agents of the new owners have been in discussions with SMDC officials, well before residents of Whiston or Moneystone, knew of their existence or their proposals for the development of Moneystone Quarry.

A representative of WAG was able to meet with Mr Peter Swallow, Managing Director of the new owners at 3.10pm on the 11/8/2010. He sought and received detailed assurances about LL{O}Ltd’s plans for the redevelopment of Moneystone Quarry.

It is now a matter of public record that virtually none of those assurances have been met. Indeed the consultation exercise held at Whiston Village Hall in February 2011 illustrated many of the features Mr Swallow had expressly ruled out. Subsequent attempts to ‘spin’ the reaction of residents in the media have served only to harden local resolve to resist them. Any degree of goodwill towards LL{O}Ltd. was destroyed by the mismatch between the assurances given and the actuality of the details displayed at the public consultation.

To ensure that WAG was able to democratically represent the views of residents in any future consultations about the proposed developments for Moneystone Quarry a detailed questionnaire was prepared and distributed to every residence in Whiston and Moneystone. The completed forms were then collected and collated. The findings are shown in appendix D.  It was evident that there was overwhelming opposition by residents to the proposals of LL{O}Ltd.

 Issues of disclosure of Information directly relating to the proposed development of Moneystone Quarry.

In the face of refusals/failures by SMDC to be open with residents of Whiston and Moneystone about the nature and extent of any discussions and/or commitments etc., given by either SMDC or LL{O}Ltd. concerning the proposed development at Moneystone Quarry WAG has had to rely upon the very limited material only very lately put into the public domain in an attempt to shape its response to the Churnet Valley Masterplan Options Report of January 2012.  It is noted that residents have barely a month in which to absorb the details of the ‘options’ and their implications for their community, let alone attempt to match the purported ‘evidence’ said to support those options and then submit a coherent response. SMDC on the other hand have had and taken years to produce the document.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests remain outstanding regarding SMDCs obligation to comply with all legal and procedural issues in the preparation of the CVMP Options Report.  What follows is a necessarily abbreviated analysis of such documentary evidence and/or policy which bear upon the future use of Moneystone Quarry.:-

  • The Department for Culture Media and Sport [DCMS] March 2011 Government Tourism Policy [page 14] is built upon a projected growth in national tourism numbers of 3.5% per year for each year up to 2020 [See Delloitte  Forecast].In the new reality of a prolonged market recession such expectations are now shown to be unsustainable across that time scale [a requirement of government policy and the Localism Act].  Current GDP growth for the last quarter of 2011 was shown to be 0.6% and predictions indicate the economy is unlikely to recover before the next Parliament due in 2015 or indeed beyond that date.
  • Government policy states ‘It is imperative that we protect our communities from being blighted by inappropriate or ugly developments and to preserve important and nationally significant historic buildings and landscapes’. [DCMS March 2011 Government Tourism Policy page 38]
  • It further states ‘Any development must satisfy the criteria of being genuinely sustainable development’. [DCMS March 2011 Government Tourism Policy page 39]

NB. National Government failed to define exactly what is meant by the concept of ‘sustainability’ in the Localism Act and has been heavily and extensively criticised for that failure by MPs and national bodies and organisations possessing the expertise to know just what potential legal chaos that failure will cause.  SMDC has adopted its own definition of ‘sustainability’ but so far as the record shows there has been no public consultation with residents upon that self adopted definition.  In the light of the above it is surprising but nonetheless instructive to note that they say of the proposed development by LL{O}Ltd at Moneystone Quarry that ‘it will need to largely create its own market…[and] it is unlikely to survive from existing markets to the Staffordshire Moorlands’[Staffordshire Moorlands Tourism Study 2011 TEAM, page 38].

It is therefore been assessed in accordance with SMDCs own definition as being unlikely to meet the criteria of ‘sustainability’ however it is defined.

 

 

Transport issues and related effects

 

Whiston Eaves Lane - narrow country lane with many bends not suitable for increased traffic

Road links to Moneystone Quarry are very constrained. They are little more than narrow winding country lanes.  A previous survey conducted on behalf of WAG by a Highway Engineer showed that the roads between the A52 and Oakamoor [Whiston Eaves Lane] and between the A52 and Moneystone and Whiston Eaves [Blakeley Lane] have no substrate. The road is made up of an accretion of thin layers of tarmac and pebble washes that have been applied over the years. Inspection of the substantially degraded edges of the roads demonstrate vividly the accuracy of this diagnosis.

Now extraction at Moneystone Quarry has ceased the road between Whiston and Oakamoor and Blakeley Lane has returned to its almost forgotten traditional usage, namely as a lane used by residents to meet their domestic needs.  The ‘baseline’ count of vehicle movements along Whiston Eaves Lane now averages 50 movements per day. These movements comprise private car movements by residents.

  • Peak traffic flows occur between 7am-9.30am and 4.30pm-6pm.
  • One school bus collects and delivers local pupils at a pickup point adjacent to the public telephone box close to the junction with the A52.  The school bus uses the 150 metre section of road between the junction with the A52 and Brookfield Close to turn around, always entering Whiston Eaves Lane and leaving it from the A52.
  • Between 10 and 20 of the daily vehicle movements are accounted for by parents dropping off and collecting school children.

It follows that the accurate baseline usage of the road is very low and the configuration of the road, its surfacing, drainage etc., is not designed to take substantially increased traffic flows.

Whiston Eaves Lane - proposed access road, a narrow winding lane.

Whiston Eaves Lane has very limited street lighting and only has a short run of pavement running for approximately 35 metres between the Old Post Office and Brookfield Close. A previous Section 106 agreement to extend the footpath to the Oakamoor edge of the village was never honoured.  In winter months and at night pedestrians are at risk from vehicle movements along Whiston Eaves Lane. At night pedestrians are wise to carry a torch for their own safety.

At the public display staged at Whiston Village Hall in February 2011 LL{O}Ltd. indicated that they expected their proposed development at Moneystone Quarry to operate throughout the year and to attract 100,000 visitors.

Such a level of usage would:-

  • Fail to meet the obligation placed upon SMDC planning authority ‘to ensure that the quality and character of the wider countryside was protected’[Office of Deputy Prime Minister2004 sustainable Planning Statement- sustainable development in rural areas]
  • Fail to give ‘greater priority to restraining potentially damaging developments [ibid]
  • Fail to ‘give greater weight to the conservation of the natural beauty of the landscape and countryside’[ibid paragraph 21]
  • Fail to reduce the need for travel especially by car’ [ibid Policy Guidance Note 13 paragraph 2] but would seriously increase the need for travel by car because of the sites inaccessibility by Coach or PSV.
  • Fail the IMPERATIVE ‘to protect our communities from being blighted by inappropriate or ugly developments’.
  • Fail to ‘leave the natural environment of [Whiston/Moneystone and] England in a better state than was inherited’ [Natural Environmental White Paper {2011} para2].
  • Fail to ‘enable people to protect green areas that are important to them’  [ibid]
  • Fail to enhance green corridors [ibid].
  • Fail to meet the fundamental aim of Green Belt policy to prevent urban sprawl, keep land permanently open and [maintain] the most important attribute of Green Belt [namely] their openness, [Office of Deputy Prime Minister {1995 amended 2001} Planning Guidance 2 Green Belts paragraph 1.4]
  • Fail the test of sustainable rural  development [Staffordshire Moorlands Tourism Study 2011 TEAM page 38]
  • Fail to ensure that the countryside is protected for the sake of its intrinsic character and beauty, the diversity of the landscape, heritage and wildlife, the wealth of its natural resources…’[DCLG {2009} Planning  policy Statement 4 Policy E6.1]
  • Fail to acknowledge that ‘the topography of the area is challenging for development’.[CV Accessibility and Connectivity Study 2011 page 28.]
  • Fail to acknowledge that the Moneystone Quarry proposals contain provision for caravans, yerts and lodges in visible locations and as such should be discouraged’ [CV Landscape Character Assessment [2011] and paragraph 10.4.9 CVMP baseline Report]
  • substantially increase the impact of vehicle movements associated with the proposed development and [create] pressure to carry out visually intrusive road improvements.’[CV Landscape Character Assessment 2011]

 

How did Moneystone Quarry come to acquire the nomenclature of  ‘Key Opportunity Site’?

It has proved a very difficult, complex and an almost impossible task to discover how and why Moneystone Quarry came by the above designation.  Had SMDC dealt properly with various FOIA requests much time, effort and expenditure by residents would have been saved.  The seeds of the concept can now be shown to arise out of express representations made on behalf of LL{O}Ltd  feeding the concept to SMDC planners as part of a determination to exploit Moneystone Quarry in pursuit of its own financial interests.[The detail is shown below]

The first time Whiston and Moneystone knew of this nomenclature came about almost accidentally.  Less than 24 hours before a ‘visioning event’ was due to take place at Consall Hall Gardens a Kingsley Parish Councillor was telephoned and asked to attend the function on behalf of Kingsley Parish Council.  The Councillor present characterised the event as more of ‘an exercise’ not unlike a multi-choice examination. He and a few other attendees tried to ask questions but where told the event was inappropriate for questions and answers.

Those attending the event at Consall Hall Gardens on 4/3/2011 where almost exclusively characterised by the Councillor as representing private commercial enterprises and were described as ‘Key Stakeholders’. Representative on behalf of LL{O}Ltd were present.  In the course of the meeting of 4/3/2011 a pamphlet entitled ‘Churnet Valley Masterplan’ was displayed. Unfortunately it does not disclose its date of printing so how proximate to the staging of the event it was produced is not known.  The leaflet clearly shows in plan form and in narrative that Moneystone Quarry had already been designated as a ‘Key Opportunity Site’.  Within that version of the pamphlet was set out a heading which reads ‘How will it [the CVMP] be prepared?’ Below that script are a series of boxes describing four stages of preparation. The visioning exercise/event taking place at Consall Hall Gardens appeared in the stage 2 box.

The stage 1 box contained the legend ‘collecting baseline data’. From that information it is clear that the CV Baseline Report had been prepared prior to 4/3/2011.  It must logically follow from the above that SMDC planners, before consulting with district or parish councillors or residents of the Churnet Valley but AFTER consulting with some ‘Key stakeholders’ had already determined, inter alia, to designate Moneystone Quarry as a ‘Key Opportunity site’.

At paragraph 1.6.1 of the CVMP Baseline Report of 2012 it  states..’[Moneystone Quarry] has been identified for further consideration as part of the Masterplan process BECAUSE THERE ARE KNOWN PRESSURES FOR CHANGE IN [this] AREA’[our emphasis].

No evidence is produced to support that assertion or demonstrate any ‘pressure for change’. At that time [and up to the present date]FOIA applications to uncover any evidence remain unanswered.  It can be said with the utmost certainty that no pressure for change at Moneystone Quarry was coming from residents of Whiston or Moneystone who had not been consulted AT ALL by SMDC, though of course they had had the opportunity to see LL{O}Ltd’s displays at Whiston Village Hall in February 2011.

This line of reasoning leads to TWO possibilities about how Moneystone Quarry came to be designated a ‘Key Opportunity Site’ in official planning policy that was showing ‘pressure for change’. These are;

  1. The SMDC planners have themselves devised the concept without any consultation with residents.

Or

  1. The concept comes from LL{O}Ltd or agents acting on their behalf and theirs is the [commercial profit driven ] pressure for change.

Had SMDC dealt openly and fully with the FOIA applications there would have been no need for the above speculation or indeed the atmosphere of doubt and suspicion it has generated.  In the last few days before this document was prepared for printing WAG has uncovered a letter dated 22/1/2010[1] from HOW Planning LLP addressed to  ‘The Head of Regeneration Services’ at SMDC stating that they are acting on behalf Laver Leisure [Oakamoor} Ltd.

The letter states, inter alia,

  • a number of meetings with the Local Planning Authority at varying levels have already taken place and these representations follow those discussions
  • Supports the ‘development of the Churnet Valley Tourism Corridor together with comprehensive proposals for key sites such as Moneystone Quarry…’
  • therefore requests that the Core Strategy vision and objectives reflect the important[2] contribution to the wider area that can be gained from redeveloping the Moneystone Quarry. Furthermore, the emerging policies should incorporate sufficient flexibility to allow the site to come forward for redevelopment…
  • The letter states that ‘we are very keen for the Core Strategy to provide sufficient flexibility to enable the Moneystone Quarry to come forward for future redevelopment WITHOUT HAVING TO OVERCOME SIGNIFICANT POLICY BOUNDARIES WHICH MAY BE SET’ [our emphasis]

[1] Presumably the letter writer means that it is important to his client rather than to the Residents of Whiston, Moneystone and the wider Churnet Valley.

[2] It should be noted that these representations and those made in the preceding meetings ‘at varying levels’ of the Local Planning Authority predate  by more than a year the display mounted by LL{O}Ltd at Whiston Village Hall in February 2011.

Ecology

Moneystone Quarry and the Churnet Valley as a whole have the ability to support important populations of a number of protected and notable flora and fauna species and important habitat types, both at a local and also potentially at a county level of importance.

 A data search from Staffordshire Biological Record Centre has highlighted a range of protected species and habitats from within the quarry itself and its immediate surrounds, although it is considered that these records may be patchy as survey effort is generally only on an ‘as required’ basis and access to land for surveys is sometimes not possible, leading to the surmise that while a number of protected species are listed, a large number of rare species that may be present in the habitats found in the area (particularly invertebrates)  are likely to be under-recorded, and it is probable that data for a number of species that are in the list may be out of date or indeed non-existent if the need to survey for such species has not arisen.  Invertebrates in particular tend to be low on records in general, and it is entirely possible that the Churnet Valley could support populations of such speciesThe Churnet Valley has been proposed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a status that would be richly deserved as it is one of the few remaining areas able to retain its natural attraction to ecologically friendly tourists due to the general lack of development in the area and the small unspoilt, and often historically interesting villages that can be found there.Habitats and Protected/Notable Species HabitatsMoneystone Quarry is surrounded by sites of interest for conservation, either for the habitats contained within them or individual/groups of flora and fauna species present.These include Sites of Special Scientific Interest1)      Whiston Eaves SSSI notified for its meadow habitats and the presence of the bullhead (Cottus gobio).2)      Churnet Valley SSSI notified for its mosaic of habitats and assemblages of rare bird and flora species3)      Froghall Meadows and Pastures SSSI notified for its unimproved grassland characteristics and flushes.In addition to this are a range of National Nature Reserves, Sites of Biological Importance, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves, Biodiversity Alert Sites and areas of Ancient Woodland.While it is understood that these areas would be protected by the development proposals, it is considered that these habitats are important enough to the area to be increased and as Moneystone Quarry is,  by and large, at the centre of all these areas it is possible that with careful management of the emerging habitats following the cessation of quarrying, the quarry can become a biologically important area in its own right and aid in the connectivity of these areas, allowing numerous species to expand into it.Protected and Notable Flora and Fauna SpeciesA number of protected and notable species were given in the records from Staffordshire Biological Record Centre (SBRC), a number of which occur in Moneystone Quarry itself.Species found there include the European Protected Species great crested newt (Triturus cristatus), and also a number of species with protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) including common toad (Bufo bufo); slow worm (Anguis fragilis); grass snake (Natrix natrix); smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris); common lizard (Zootoca vivipara), and birds on the RSPB Birds of Conservation Concern list including jack snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus) and little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), both of which are amber listed species.In the wider area, a number of protected and notable species have been recorded in the vicinity of Moneystone Quarry including otter (Lutra lutra) and freshwater white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) among others.A number of bat species and badger are also recorded in the local area and it is entirely possible that they are using the quarry, although no bat records from the quarry itself were given by  SBRC, and the badger data is confidential so cannot be pinned down to an exact grid reference.Potential Ecological IssuesThe plans to develop Moneystone Quarry would, at the very least, cause disturbance to populations of any protected species present within it through increased human traffic, lighting and noise, and combined with the planned re-opening of the railway line between Moneystone and Alton Towers has the potential to cause disturbance and habitat fragmentation far beyond the boundaries of the quarry itself, most notably to the Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii) and pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus sp.) populations that are known to use the disused railway tunnel in Oakamoor both as a winter hibernacular (SBRC record) and as a summer roost (personal observation).Add to this the possible impact of additional pollution to the local watercourses from increased vehicle traffic and diesel trains, and there is potential for the current proposals to have a large negative effect on flora and fauna populations not only within Moneystone Quarry, but also with further reaching implications throughout the Churnet Valley. The claim that the increased tourism would be of benefit to the economy of the Churnet Valley appears to be limited to the potential for a few jobs to be created in the Moneystone Quarry development, but any further benefits are likely to only be gained by the owners of Moneystone Quarry and Alton Towers at the expense of a delightful part of the British countryside and its wildlife.The original proposal to restore Moneystone Quarry and potentially declare it and its surrounds as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty would also increase tourism to the area, but in a more environmentally friendly way through sensitive use of the area by outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife watchers rather than simply shuttling people between the Moneystone Quarry development and Alton Towers and would result in a more ecologically sustainable use of the Churnet Valley area.Sensitive management of the quarry would enable habitats to be created that could provide highly positive connectivity between the existing areas of conservation importance surrounding the quarry and allow movement of species into other areas that would be unlikely to occur if the current proposals are allowed to go ahead.The restoration of the quarry (as originally agreed) would provide an ideal opportunity to improve the local area, both in terms of its wildlife and residents and for people from the wider area as well as providing scope to generate income for the local area as visitors would be more likely to use local shops, bed and breakfasts, public houses etc. and also valuable education for children and adults alike.Restored quarries are known to be havens for large numbers of species including flora species, invertebrates, herpetofauna, mammals, and not least bird species, particularly wildfowl as the lakes left behind following cessation of work often provide valuable breeding habitats for large numbers of wildfowl species.Employment could be generated in the area by paid workers (and also volunteers) taking part in the active restoration, giving local people a chance to get involved in their area and to gain skills that may otherwise be beyond their reach, potentially leading to worthwhile careers in their field of choice.The opportunities for the local community to benefit from the restoration are not limited to the immediate habitat work and continued management of the site. The area could also, once established, have the potential for the creation of an environmentally designed residential centre for the running of field courses for companies like the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, Joint Nature Conservancy Council and Field Studies Council as well as providing an educational facility for local schools, youth and adult groups alike.Creation of a mosaic of habitats within the site would also mean that it would appeal to specialist groups such as birdwatchers, bat groups and also potentially low-impact sports such as fishing, cycling and kayaking.Potential inclusion of a shop and information centre would mean that day visitors would be more likely to spend additional time in the area, and could be introduced to other local environmental attractions and informed of a range of activities that could be arranged including guided bat walks, badger watching or one day taster courses in field identification for a range of flora and fauna species.The restoration of the quarry and use of it in a way similar to that above would ensure that all residents of the Churnet Valley could make use of the site for leisure activities and that the site would continue to provide a haven for the species that currently inhabit it, and also species that would move in following the restoration.Overall, the restoration would be expected to raise the amenity profile of the area and also increase the biodiversity of the area as a whole, particularly if the restoration could extend to the disused section of railway, linking it to the current restored footpath to the east of Oakamoor.

Toad Crossing at Moneystone Quarry

Toad Crossing at Moneystone Quarry

A mass migration of mating toads has prompted local wildlife supporters to launch a rescue bid.  Members of Whiston Action Group have identified an important toad population in the disused Moneystone Quarry between Whiston and Oakamoor , where large scale development is proposed.   During the quarries operative years, as new parts of the quarry were opened up, the older parts were left to regenerate naturally.  Those older parts of the site have become a haven for wildlife and now attract a wide range of birds, animals and plants.   Of particular importance is a large naturalised pond that’s the main attraction for the toads at this time of year.  Amorous toads from a wide area travel there to breed, as it is a safe undisturbed place where they can mate and lay their eggs.   But the toads are under threat as Nick Cresswell, WAG’s communications officer, explained:-

“The toad main migratory route crosses the access road into the quarry.  What concerns us is that last year, in one day alone, 24 toads were squashed by quarry vehicles.  It’s probable that the accumulation of deaths over the whole migration period, which can last several weeks, amounts to hundreds and affects the breeding success and long term viability of the population.  A phased restoration programme to benefit wildlife, was put in place years ago when planning permission to extract sand was granted and still is a conditional requirement.  Unfortunately, the future of the toads is under threat from the new owners of the site, Laver Leisure, who have extensive tourism development plans for the site.  The high levels of traffic generated by such development would increase the mortality rate considerably and be devastating for the toad population.   Whiston Action Group wants Laver Leisure to complete the restoration plan, so that the toads and all wildlife may continue to enjoy valuable wildlife habitat.”

Members of WAG are exploring issues with the mineral planning officers of Staffordshire County Council, who have the responsibility for enforcing the restoration by Laver Leisure to ensure that they comply with their responsibilities. In addition WAG is liaising with Froglife, a national ecological organisation that co-ordinates recommendations for the registration of toad crossings with the Department for Transport, so that the highway authority can take appropriate measures to warn drivers of high volume toad migration crossing points around the quarry.

Tricia Williamson, a Whiston Wildlife enthusiast, is pictured highlighting the plight of the toads in the main problem area on the access road into Moneystone Quarry.

 

 

 

CONCERNS

W.A.G. Concerns

  • Current tourist numbers are already degrading tourist ‘hot spots’.
  • Geography, topography and infrastructure of the Churnet Valley do not allow for the type and proposed levels of increased tourism.

 

Churnet Valley Master Plan – Lack of Public Consultation

  • Staffordshire Moorlands District Council failed to consult adequately with the public from the outset.
  • The proposals more reflect the demands of commercial enterprise than the aspirations of the public.
  • WAG wants Better tourism not More tourism. WAG supports a tourism industry based on small local businesses, where the profits stay within the community, rather than exploitation of the valley by major outside developers.

 

Traffic

  • The district council proposals take no account of the inadequate road infrastructure in the Churnet Valley.  Alton Towers traffic is already a concern and further development can only make a bad situation worse.

 

Jobs

  • The district council proposals will provide only a small number of jobs, most being part-time, low paid and likely to attract outside labour.  WAG would like to see more permanent skilled and professional jobs created through local tourism businesses and small scale industrial units on appropriate brownfield sites.

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.