Tag Archives: Core Strategy

RESIDENTS DEFEAT LAVER LEISURE

SMDC PLANNING COMMITTEE REJECTED LAVER LEISURE’S PLAN TO DEVELOP MONEYSTONE QUARRY BY AN OVERWHELMING MAJORITY ON THURSDAY 26/11/15 THEREBY VINDICATING THE VIEWS OF THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE LOCAL RESIDENTS.

WITH A VOTE TO REFUSE THE APPLICATION OF 9-1 AND DETAILED SWINGING CRITICISM OF  ON AND OFF SITE ACCESS,TRAFFIC AND SAFETY ISSUES THE COMPANIES PLANS FOR MONEYSTONE QUARRY NOW LOOK BEYOND REDEMPTION.
EVEN THE SINGLE VOTE IN FAVOUR OF THE APPLICATION WAS HEDGED AROUND WITH RESERVATIONS.

THE APPLICANTS INTENTIONS FOR QUARRY 2 WERE SAVAGED BY THE COMMITTEE WHO EXPRESSED THE VIEW THAT IT SHOULD NOT HAVE FORMED ANY PART OF APPLICATION SMD/2014/0682 HAVING THE CHARACTERISTICS OF AN ENTIRELY SEPARATE DEVELOPMENT.

TRAFFIC  ON THE RURAL ROAD NETWORK GAVE COUNCILLORS GRAVE CONCERNS AND THEY CLEARLY APPLIED THEIR OWN LOCAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE RURAL ROAD NETWORK IN PREFERENCE TO THE COMPLETELY INEPT TRAFFIC ASSESSMENT OF SCC HIGHWAYS.
AS WITH LOCAL CONCERNS ABOUT SATNAV ACESS TO NEARBY ALTON TOWERS COMMITTEE MEMBERS REJECTED SUGGESTIONS THAT THE MAJORITY OF VISITORS TO THE SITE WOULD IGNORE SATNAV AND FOLLOW INTENDED BROWN SIGNS.
HIGHWAY OFFICERS PRESENT IN THE CHAMBER GAVE A VERY UNCONVINCING PERFORMANCE UNDER QUESTIONING FROM THE COMMITTEE AND PLAINLY HAD A VERY POOR GRASP OF THE LOCAL HIGHWAY AND TRAFFIC CONDITIONS.
COMMITTEE MEMBERS PLAINLY FOUND THEIR VIEWS UNSUPPORTABLE AND HAVING CONSIDERED A RANGE OF CONFLICTING EXPERT TRAFFIC OPINION INCLUDING TWO REPORTS SUBMITTED BY RESIDENTS THEY ROBUSTLY REJECTED THE APPLICANTS TRAFFIC ASSESSMENT.

OTHER MAJOR GROUNDS FOR REJECTING THE APPLICATION INCLUDED INAPPROPRIATE ON AND OFF SITE ACCESS AND SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS AND THE ADVERSE VISUAL IMPACT OF THIS TWO AND THREE STORY DEVELOPMENT THAT WOULD HAVE ADVERSE VISUAL IMPACT ON THE SENSITIVE CHURNET VALLEY AND ON NEARBY LISTED BUILDINGS.
THE LACK OF ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORT OPTIONS WERE CITED BY ALL OF THE COUNCILLORS WHO SPOKE AGAINST THE APPLICATION AS PRESENTING A SERIOUS IMPEDIMENT, AS WAS THE LACK OF ADEQUATE CAR PARKING PROVISION.

INTRUSION OF THE PLANNED DEVELOPMENT ONTO THE TENANCY OF CROWTREES FARM IN BREACH OF THE TENANCY AGREEMENT WAS ALSO RAISED BY SPEAKER DISTRICT COUNCILLOR LINDA MALYON.

OF PARTICULAR CONCERN WAS THE ISSUE OF ACCESS TO AND THE STABILITY OF THE PROPOSALS TO DEVELOP THE SLOPES OF QUARRY 3.

THE OVERLY CONFIDENT GLOSSY PR LEAFLETS AND THE WIDESPREAD PRESS COVERAGE PAID FOR BY THE APPLICANTS IN THE DAYS BEFORE THE COMMITTEE SAT TO DETERMINE THE APPLICATION GAVE A WIDESPREAD IMPRESSION THAT THEY BELIEVED THEY HAD A GUARANTEE OF SUCCESS.

THE DECISION OF INDEPENDENT PLANNING COMMITTEE MEMBERS MUST HAVE BEEN QUITE A SHOCK.

ANYONE WANTING TO KNOW MORE OF THE DETAIL OF THE HEARING CAN FIND THE WEBCAST ON SMDC PLANNING WEBSITE  VBY CLICKING ON THE FOLLOWING LINK OR

Link to SMDC Webcast

OR BY CONTACTING WAG USING THE DETAILS SHOWN AND/ORSPEAKING TO A MEMBER OF WAG. 

WAG ACHIEVES ANOTHER MAJOR SUCCESS IN DEFEATING SOLAR FARM APPLICATION.

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

OBJECTIONS TO PLANNING APPLICATION NUMBER SMD/2014/0682 LAVER LEISURE [ OAKAMOOR] LTD. MONEYSTONE QUARRY

It is clear from the structure of the application and from earlier evidence provided by Officers of the Applicants that it is intended that this application is not a free- standing application but a part of a future wider scheme that the Applicants intend to make to develop Moneystone Quarry as a tourist leisure park. The representations made below and any decisions or recommendations reached by Planning Officers and/or the Planning Committee of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council should be viewed against that wider context.

In so far as the extant application does not set out the detail of that larger application it is submitted that it will be impossible for application SMD/2014/0682 to demonstrate compliance with the detailed provisions of the Authorities Core Strategy Policies and the contents and principles embodied in the Churnet Valley Master Plan [CVMP].  Neither does it demonstrate compliance with the principles of The Aarhus Convention Treaty so far as it relates to the Environment and/or Health, nor to the NPPF and the principles of the Localism Act 2011.

In the representations made below it should be noted that where appropriate they quote the CVMP and as applicable identify the relevant paragraphing. Emphasis has been added as appropriate.

DETAILED REPRESENTATIONS

1. The failures referred to below affects the human rights of those entitled to make representations and protect their rights under the Human Rights Act to a family life. The actions of the SMDC planning officers in entering into a prolonged and secret series of meetings with the applicants from approximately 2009 up to the present day and a refusal to disclose the details of those meetings amount to a denial of essential information that undermines the human rights of residents who would wish to make informed decisions about the present application and the linked application SMD/2014/0432.

It is noted that [quote] ‘A number of meetings with the Local Planning Authority [LPA] at varying levels have already taken place and these representations follow these discussions.’ [ HOW letter 22/01/2010 to Head of Regeneration Services SMDC]. The same letter states ‘We are aware that the Core Strategy for the Staffordshire Moorlands is now in an advanced stage and that a consultation exercise was undertaken on the Submission Version of the Core Strategy in May/June 2009. Whilst the Core Strategy is at an advanced stage, we are very keen for the Core Strategy to provide sufficient flexibility to enable the Moneystone Quarry site to come forward for future redevelopment without having to overcome significant policy boundaries which may be set by the Core Strategy.’ At page 2 of the letter it says ‘ The overall intention of the representations is…to promote Moneystone Quarry as a potential tourism and recreational hub…..‘ It is plain that Planning Officers ‘at varying levels’ have written the SMDC Core Strategy [and it is submitted the subsequent CVMP] in a manner that is both secret and intended to advocate the application[s] now made.  As such these actions fall outside of the principle role of planning officers, acting as public servants [see SMDC Constitution] to act in the best interests of the public they serve and not to advocate for the private commercial interests of an applicant in ways that the evidence demonstrates.  It is submitted that such actions demonstrate a clear intention to harm the human rights of residents.

2. The application is in breach of the provisions of the SMDC Core Strategy and the Churnet Valley Master Plan as set out more particularly herein.

3. The Application is governed, inter alia, by the provisions of the Aarhus Convention Treaty and its direct applicability in English Law under European Law, specifically in relation to any issues of the environment and/or health and is not so compliant.

4. The development site is part of the ‘rich and varied cultural heritage, the development of which has been greatly influenced by the diverse landscape and geology of the area’ and is part of ‘this unique rural historic character that has been mapped as part of the Staffordshire Historic Landscape Characterisation project 2006’ [see para 2.0.7 CVMP 2014]. As such it should be protected by the principles enshrined in the Core Strategy and the CVMP and not developed in the way proposed by this application. The site is also a ‘Special Landscape Area’ and when restored in accordance with the extant restoration plan will be a green field site. In 1996 the then quarry owners working with SCC Mineral Authority on a restoration scheme in a document entitled ‘The restoration vision’ promised residents that ‘ Our aim was to come up with an exciting plan which allowed progressive restoration of older working areas to blend them with the surrounding landscape and to create a variety of new habitats for plants and wildlife‘. We are looking at the possibility of a bat cave once the tunnel on site has become redundant’. The vision continued to stress that the site should not be ‘left with an alien landscape which would not be in keeping with the surrounding Staffordshire countryside.’ It is submitted that the current proposed development plans would produce just such an alien landscape. Residents are entitled to expect that they will get what they have been promised for very many years.

5. To grant the present application would be, or would inevitably result in, a breach of the Development and Management Principles set out in the provisions of paragraphs 8.1, 8.2, 8.3 and 8.4 of the CVMP more specifically set out herein.

Under a heading of ‘A Vision for the Churnet Valley’ at paragraph 4.1, SMDC     acknowledges the Churnet Valley [of which Moneystone is an integral part] [is] ‘high quality landscape which is treasured by both the communities who live and work in the area and visitors to it. It will sustain its unique qualities of a diverse and varied environment which is rich in wildlife, heritage, landscape and tourist attractions’ and ‘will be [and already is] widely recognised, locally,  regionally and nationally for its high quality landscape and its heritage and wildlife interest’.  On the basis that what is not broken should not be fixed it is submitted that to grant the current application would be in breach of the Authorities own policies and it’s commitment to protect the Churnet Valley.

 8.Para.2.1.1 CVMP [The] Weakness of promoting this development;

  •  ‘lack of physical linkages’
  • ‘reliance on the private motor car due to the rural nature of the area, limited capacity of the highway network which is of poor standard ………. congestion at peak times [especially at nearby Alton Towers] due to visitor traffic.’
  • ‘The rural nature of the area limits the opportunities for physical transport improvements and reduces the viability of new services.’
  • ‘Limited access by public transport’
  • ‘Topography and physical barriers can be [and are] restrictive to movement.’
  • Lack of maintenance of heritage assets.’
  • ‘Narrowness of [the] lanes.’
  • The application site is ‘not an existing coherent visitor destination.’
  • ‘Future development at Moneystone Quarry would cause loss of small scale landscape features further affecting the character of the local landscape.
  • There are ‘biodiversity sites in close proximity which could potentially be vulnerable to future change.’  This is particularly the case as evidence shows that the Applicants have proved poor ‘stewards’ of the site allowing the deterioration of the Whiston Eaves SSSI, neglected the hydrology of the site, failed to provide bat, bird and badger surveys, failed to meet the criteria required by Natural England with regard to the Great Crested Newts and the European sand lizards present on the site.
  • Planned and already extant expansion at Alton Towers Resort ‘may have an adverse impact’ on the road net work to and from the site and it is the stated ambition of the Applicants to link in to the Alton Towers Resort market.
  • ‘Environmental sensitivity such as the Whiston Eaves SSSI.’   It is noted here that the requirement to maintain the ground water levels at the SSSI [which is a condition attaching to the land restoration applicable to extant planning permissions] is not currently being honoured. [For fuller details see letter dated 3/10/14 from Matthew Griffin SCC Planning, Policy and Enforcement of the many failings and non-compliance.]
  • ‘Potential increased pressure on natural resources from [the] development.’
  •  ‘Sensitivity of [the] heritage asset of the Proposed development.’

 Identified Challenges Paragraph 5.1.6 CVMP

  • The CVMP notes in the evidence base to its CS and the CVMP that ‘there is little evidence of sustainable tourism being adopted [by the tourism industry].’ That being so the current application is unlikely to be ‘sustainable’ and as that is a requirement of the Localism Act 2011 and the N.P.P.F. there is no proper evidential basis upon which to grant this particular application. It should also be noted that the quoted comments are formally part and parcel of the SMDC’ CS and CVMP and must therefore be complied with.
  • The same documentation notes that ‘Selling sustainability to business [such as the Applicant] and consumers purely on environmental grounds has not worked.’
  • N.B. It should also be noted that the Aarhus Convention Treaty is binding in English Law on environmental and health issues and that the current application is non-compliant with its provisions.
  • ‘An alternative to car based tourism is a challenge.’ It should be noted that the Chief Executive of SMDC signed off on an official report that stated the Staffordshire Moorlands exceeded the national average of CO2 emissions. The current application is bound to add to an increase of such emissions being dependent as it is [and shown on the face of the application and further acknowledged by the Applicants limiting the current outline application to issues of access] on an increased use of the private motor car.

Paragraph 5.1.14 ETC. CVMP

  •  The CVMP is committed to theOverarching principle of sustaining and enhancing the natural, built and historic environmental quality of the area, its settlements and hinterland.’ If that is truly the case it will reject this application as being non-compliant with thatoverarching principle’.
  • How does the application demonstrate that it ensures that [the] communities of [Moneystone, Whiston and Oakamoor] are at the heart of the future of the CV,’ when those communities have expressed in the clearest possible terms that they reject the applicant’s proposals.  It demonstrates that the applicants have no intention of putting the views of those communities before their own narrow, selfish commercial interests.
  • How would granting the application demonstrate respect, enhance and protect [this] positive aspect of the CV?’  It does not do so.
  • The Special Landscape Area that is the application site once restored in accordance with the statutory restoration scheme is a ‘sustaining and enhancing existing assets of the CV and its ‘qualities help make the area unique.’   On the other hand the application seeks to destroy those assets and is therefore contrary to the policies of the CVMP and the CS.
  • The application does not ensure the nature and scale of development it proposes is appropriate to its locality.’ It is not and the policy goes on to state that ‘this means limited OR NO development is appropriate for this part of the CV.’
  • Granting this application would destroy and not support existing local enterprises’.  On the other hand, if granted this application wouldcause harm to the essential qualities of landscape, ecology [and] heritage.’

Paragraph 6.2.1

  • The CVMP contains the provision that its policy will only permit ‘minimal change……..to protect sensitive areas.’ This application amounts to the planned destruction of a Special Landscape Area and its established sensitive areas. To grant the application would amount to a breach of ‘the KEY REQUIREMENT OF THE [CVMP] POLICY’ and as such it should be rejected.

Paragraph 6.2.1

  • The application does not demonstrate  ‘a strong emphasis on supporting [the existing] heritage.’ It should be rejected.

Paragraph 6.3.3

  •   The application shows that it has a ‘significant shortfall in terms of the environmental impact and in particular the impact on the need to travel and [the] potential to increase the use of the private car.’  As a result it does not meet the test of sustainable appraisal of options  that are part of the underpinning evidential base of the CS and the CVMP.

Paragraph 6.4.3.

  • To grant this application would not demonstrate that SMDC was acting in accordance with its own expressed policy  ‘to resist development which would be [and will be demonstrated to be] harm[ful] to the character of the local landscape.’  Residents are entitled to expect that SMDC will uphold this policy.

Paragraph 6.8.4 TRANSPORT

  •  ‘There is to be identification of key transport nodes from which to travel by more sustainable modes, with improvements where necessary to car parking. [N.B. This is a future requirement and it is noted that the area of Moneystone, Oakamoor, Whiston Frogall and Kingsley is to be the subject of a detailed and separate traffic survey that yet to be commenced but has already been agreed. Until it has been done and the findings are applied to the Transport Policy it would amount to a breach of residents human rights. They have been given an express commitment in the CVMP that this process will be undertaken.

Paragraph 6.8.8.5

  •   The CVMP provides that ‘it aims to conserve, enhance and celebrate the heritage of an area of high landscape value’.   To grant the current application would be a breach of that policy.

Paragraph 7.6.1.1

  •   ‘The sensitivity of the landscape, biodiversity, heritage and access issues are major factors and the key focus should be on conserving and enhancing the landscape and biodiversity of the area’.   The current application does not meet the provisions of this policy and should be rejected.

Paragraph 6.5. CONSTRAINTS

  • The CVMP policy is to ensure development does not generate unacceptable volumes of traffic on the existing road net work and that major highway works are avoided.’  This application would breach that policy.
  • The development is unacceptable to the vast majority of locals.’ [It is noted that over a period substantially in excess of one year the applicants have failed to engage with Staffordshire County Council Highways Department about concerns that the Highway Department have expressed about the applicants plans for the site so far as it relates to traffic congestion issues. This unwillingness has contributed to the view of locals that the application is ‘unacceptable’]
  • The application does notPromote the use of sustainable modes of transport to reach the site’.
  • The development is not ‘in-keeping with the scale and nature of the [existing] landscape character. Nor does it ensure that any future development is located in a way that does not impinge on the small scale landscape or the open visible landscape.’
  • The application is not as required by the CVMP low key’ and of a nature, character and style that is intrinsic to the character of the area. The area is of open farm and meadow land and it is noted that extant planning conditions attaching to adjacent land owned by the applicants require it to be restored to meadow land. The applicants are already substantially in breach of that requirement.
  • The application does not contain active conservation of the site to protect the SSSI’ and the applicants duty to meet the water table at the SSSI is not being met.

Paragraph 8.1

  • The application fails to meet the requirement that the protection and enhancement of the natural beauty of the CV IS THE OVER RIDING REQUIREMENT OF ANY DEVELOPMENT’
  • Further the application proposal and associated infrastructure measures are/will be ‘detrimental to the sensitive ecology and geology of the area.’ [ SCC Environmental Officer has already raised concerns about adjacent sensitive areas]
  • Cotton College is a ‘designated heritage asset’ and in accordance with SMDC policy it ‘shall be protected and maintained in a good state of repair.’  The current application is very likely to cause harm to parts of this heritage asset.  It should be rejected.
  • The application fails to meet [any] appropriate degree of evaluation and/or mitigation commensurate to the level of impact and significance of the heritage asset.’  The above referred to letter from SCC date 3/10/14 lists some but not all of the ways in which this application will damage the Special Landscape Area which is a heritage asset.

 Paragraph 8.3

  • The application is antipathetic to the CVMP aim to ‘develop healthy sustainable communities.’

 Paragraph 8.4

  • As the applicants have failed over a prolonged period to engage with SCC Highways officials over their plans the application does not meet the policy requirements that ‘aim to support and increase sustainable travel means.’ Instead the application seeks to exacerbate already difficult traffic conditions. If granted the application would give rise to excessive traffic that will harm the valued characteristics of [this part of] the CV.Neither does the application ‘seek to minimise the impact of traffic [in this] environmentally sensitive location.’

 Paragraph 9.0.9

  • The application fails to fit within the aims and aspirations of the Staffordshire Tourism Study [2011] [STS 2011] thatseeks to take a co-ordinated planning and sustainable development approach.’ The STS 2011 is an evidential base for the SMDC Core Strategy and the CVMP and as such forms an integral part of those policy documents. The application has to be viewed in the context of SMDC’ binding obligation given to an Independent Inspector to revisit the CS again by 2016. and against its already adopted policy of seeking AONB status, a process in which it is already actively engaged. The STS 2011 recognises that ‘AONB status would be an ideal way to view matters.’ To ignore that approach and to grant this application in contravention of the principle STS 2011 sets out would, it is submitted, be a breach of human rights and ultra vires of SMDC’ powers.
  • At a recent exhibition at Whiston Village Hall related to what was then the forthcoming application now SMD/2014/0682 to build a leisure complex at Moneystone Quarry, Mr. Peter Swallow, Director of the Applicant company, revealed that it is the intention of the Applicants to sell off a significant percentage [40% was mentioned] of the ‘lodges’ to private buyers. This amounts to the development of private dwellings in the Special Landscape Area and is contrary to the SMDC Core Strategy, the Churnet Valley Master Plan and the Strategic Housing Land Allocation [SHLAA] process.

LAVER’S PLANS. SEE HOW PLANNING LETTER OF 22 Jan 2010 AND DEMAND TO KNOW THE TRUTH

 

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.

How Letter P1

IMG_2086

Traffic Chaos

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.

Sybil.Ralphs@staffsmoorlands.gov.uk

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.

 

DEVELOPMENT SITES TO BE ANNOUNCED

 

On 26 March 2014, against much public opposition, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council adopted the Core Strategy and Churnet Valley Masterplan, setting the overarching policy for planning development in the Moorlands through until 2026.  Large tourism development sites and an extensive house building programme are the main issues.

The allocation of specific sites will soon be announced, where development will be encouraged by the Council.   Major tourism development proposals will affect local communities.  Additionally, villages, such as Whiston, are at risk from  house building proposals that could have a negative impact on communities.  Over the coming months Moorlands residents can expect to see proposals for house building sites aimed at meeting major shortfalls in achieving the SMDC’s housing provision target.  Developers are keen to exploit green field sites and may well push to expand village development boundaries out into green fields.  In Whiston, one speculative application to build on a green field is already in the pipe line.  When viewed in isolation, the application is relatively innocuous, but if approved, would set a dangerous precedent that could open the flood gates for much more expansive development applications around our villages.

WAG is encouraging all District Councillors to look very carefully at the officer proposals for site allocations to do with both tourism and housing.  WAG suggests that each district councillor holds public meetings in their respective wards to engage with the public and take on board local opinion, so that they can speak up in the Council chamber at Leek and do the job they were elected for. Be aware that the officers preparing the proposals have targets to meet and may put forward proposals that you are not happy with.  You have the right and the power, through your elected representative’s vote, to reject inappropriate development.

Early in May, your District Councillor is to be briefed on the site allocation proposals and should be taking steps to consult with you and your parish council members.    If you want to protect your village from inappropriate development, it’s important that you engage with your local councillors to scrutinise what is proposed.  Ask when your community is going to hold its public meeting and draft questions  for your district councillor to raise in the chamber at Leek. Please start thinking about these issues now, talk to your councillors and ensure that they don’t sit idly by and allow officers to do as they please.    It is our community not theirs, so make sure you have your say.

CHURNET VALLEY MASTERPLAN

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.

Council ignores contamination at old Industrial site

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:-
https://www.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk/sm/council-services/area-action-plans/churnet-valley-masterplan

What’s Happening at the moment – a brief summary

Moneystone Quarry
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 land to agricultural and wildlife use within two years of the quarry closing. That deadline has lapsed and WAG expects SCC to take enforcement action against the new owners, Laver Leisure, for failing to complete the restoration work on time.

Instead of doing the required restoration work, Laver Leisure has submitted an application to make major changes to the restoration plan without adequate justification. The changes would involve 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. There have already been numerous public objections to Laver’s application, which is expected to be considered by the Staffordshire County Council Planning Committee on
Monday 07 November 2013. To view the application on the SCC website click on the following link:-

https://apps.staffordshire.gov.uk/CPLand/details.aspx?applicationID=132246

Draft Churnet Valley Masterplan
Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) is currently consulting the public on a Draft Churnet Valley Masterplan that will set out a framework for intended development of tourism in the Churnet Valley. There are concerns that SMDC has ignored the overwhelming public request for minimal development and included proposals for excessive development at numerous sites, including Moneystone Quarry and the highly contaminated site at the old Bolton’s Copperworks.

If you share WAG’s concerns regarding the excessive development that is proposed, you have until 11 November 2013 to make your representations to the Council in writing or by following the following link:-

https://www.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk/sm/news/have-your-say-on-the-future-of-churnet-valley

Core Strategy – Planning Inspector’s Report
SMDC’s long term development plan for the whole of the Staffordshire Moorlands through to 2026, called the Core Strategy, was considered at a public hearing in February by an independent Planning Inspector. The Inspector found that numerous elements of the plan, including proposed tourism development, were “unsound” and required the Council to make changes. Proposed changes have been submitted by SMDC to the Inspector, but they do not reflect the public view. The Inspector is expected to make public his final report in the next few weeks.

The Churnet Valley Masterplan, referred to earlier, depends upon the Core Strategy being approved. WAG hopes the Inspector will dismiss the Core Strategy and insist on SMDC re-starting the process from scratch, this time with genuine public consultation. Want to know more? – please follow the link below:-

https://www.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk/sm/council-services/core-strategy/examination

BREAKTHROUGH IN PLANNING LAW AND THE PEOPLES RIGHT TO KNOW – A GAME CHANGER SAY LAWYERS.

A ruling by the UN Economic Commission Committee tribunal in Geneva has ruled that the UK Government acted illegally by denying the public decision-making powers and the necessary information over the benefits and adverse effects of wind farms.
The tribunal has ruled that the UK flouted Artcle 7 of the Aarhus Convention which requires full and effective public participation on ALL environmental issues and demands that citizens are given the right to participate in the process.
WAG has studied the Aarhus Convention and related legislation, including the Strategic Environmental Assessment [2001/42/EC] and guidance given by the Deputy Prime Ministers Office and is confident that the decision has wide and general applicability by all ‘appropriate authorities’.
The tribunal decision given in favour of campaigner Christine Metcalfe who challenged the decision to grant permission for a wind farm in Scotland has been described by lawyers as ‘a game- changer’.
David Hart Q.C. an environmental lawyer said ‘This ruling means that consents and permissions for further wind-farm development in Scotland and the UK are liable to challenge on the grounds that the necessary policy preliminaries have not been complied with and that, in effect, the public has been denied the chance to consider and contribute’.
Christine Metcalfe in her application complained that she had not been given access to information to allow her to make an informed judgement about the application and that important information had been ‘lost’ or was missing.
It is common knowledge that SMDC has had its own difficulties over the issue of wind turbines in the Moorlands and even on a narrow basis this decision has serious implications for the whole of the authorities Core Strategy currently under consideration by an Independent Inspector.
WAG is happy to help other environmental and local action groups, Parish Councils etc understand the full implication of this judgement for local issues on which the public should be [and/or should have been] consulted. See contact details above.