Tag Archives: Housing

Village Boundary Changes?




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.

Major changes required to Council Plans for the Churnet Valley

An independent Government Inspector considers the District Council’s Core Strategy development proposals for the Staffordshire Moorlands to be “Unsound” and has declined to give them approval without major changes being made.  Mr Patrick Whitehead, in his interim conclusions to the Council dated 05 March advises that numerous sections of the plan need to be re-written.  The damning report identifies only 5 areas of the plan that are “Sound”, but a massive 21 that are “Unsound”.  The report presents a major setback for the Council.


The Inspector’s criticisms follow a three day hearing in February when Mr Whitehead heard representations from the public, arguing that the Council had got the development plan wrong in many respects, including house building allocations and tourism proposals for the Churnet Valley.   At the hearing Whiston Action Group (WAG) members argued strongly that large scale tourism proposals for a “tourism corridor” in the Churnet Valley were inappropriate in scale and had been ill thought out.   At the invitation of the Inspector WAG drafted an alternative tourism policy for the Churnet Valley for his consideration aimed at supporting small locally based businesses that could promote tourism on a less intensive scale, more appropriate to the limitations of the environment and more acceptable to local residents.


Nick Cresswell, WAG Communications Officer , said:-


“WAG is pleased that the Inspector listened to us and has identified the flaws in the Council Plan.  It’s now down to the Council to respond to his comments.  The Council Cabinet will need to go back to the drawing board and this time genuinely listen to what the public want for the Churnet Valley.  Once proposals have been re-written, the Inspector requires a six week public consultation period during which time members of the public will be able to make a judgement and comment.  WAG hopes this is a new beginning but we have been let down by the Council before.  Time will tell.”


For more information please visit the following links:-



Planning Inspector invites Objectors to rewrite Council’s Strategy for Churnet Valley.

The independent Government Inspector, Mr Patrick Whitehead, has at long last provided residents with the first genuine opportunity to have their say on the future of the Churnet Valley.

During a three day hearing this week at Moorlands House, Leek, the Inspector scrutinised the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s Draft Core Strategy Document to see if it is fit for purpose. The inspection was rigorous and follows an avalanche of public criticism of the Council’s plans during the consultation phase, when thousands of comments were made by local residents, the main issues being the so called “tourism corridor” and housing development allocations.

The scale of public interest was so great that the packed public hearing had to be moved to a larger room at one stage.  The Inspector heard evidence from Whiston Action Group representatives challenging excessive and unsustainable proposals for tourism development at Moneystone Quarry and other locations.   The hearing heard about the inadequacies of the road infrastructure to cope with existing tourism problems stretching from The Roaches in the north down to Alton in the south. The scale of development proposed by the Council was considered ill thought out, inappropriate and unsustainable.   Witnesses argued that better tourism, involving encouragement for small locally based businesses is required, not large scale tourism developments by outside commercial interests.    The Peak District National Park is already suffering from an excess of unsustainable tourist numbers and wishes to off load that excess to the Moorlands, despite the serious risk that the Churnet Valley will fall victim to the same problem.  Calls for the Council’s proposals to be scaled back considerably to a level that the area and residents can cope with were listened to with evident sympathy by the inspector who has taken the significant step of inviting objectors (mostly represented by WAG) to re-draft the key Churnet Valley Tourism section of the Council plan (Policy SS7), discuss their ideas with the District Council to achieve agreement if possible and then for him to review progress with a revised policy in two weeks.


WAG welcomes that recognition of its concerns and those of other objectors and is currently in the process of coordinating views to arrive at a revised draft policy for discussion with the District Council before responding to the Inspector’s invitation.

Over the next few weeks, the Inspector has said that he will be reviewing his proposed modifications to the Core Strategy before deciding whether the changes that he would wish to see can be incorporated satisfactorily or whether they are of such significance that he must return the Council’s Core Strategy for complete revision.


Nick Cresswell, WAG Communication Officer, said:-
After two years of frustration with a District Council that does not listen to local residents, WAG is pleased to see the intervention of an independent public enquiry and looks forward to the day when an eventual plan will be produced for the future of the Churnet Valley that genuinely reflects the needs of residents.”

SMDC Core Strategy Pre-hearing Meeting at Cheadle 10am Tues 11 Dec 2012

Just a note to those people who made representations to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council expressing concerns about the legal compliance and soundness of the Core Strategy.  The deadline for registering your intention to attend both the Pre-hearing Meeting 10am Tues 11 Dec 2012 at the Bethel Suite, Tape Street,  Cheadle, and the Full Hearing on a date to be fixed in February 2013 at Moorlands House, Leek, is fast approaching.  You have until 30 November 2012 to register your intention of attending.   If you have not done so, act quickly by contacting the Planning Inspector’s Programme officer, Pippa Home, on 0845 129 7777 ext 3705 or by e-mail at  ProgrammeOfficer@staffsmoorlands.gov.uk

Whiston Action Group would be pleased to hear from organisations or individuals planning to attend the Pre-Hearing Meeting, who would like to take the opportunity of discussing issues of mutual interest.

WAG communications Officer, Nick Cresswell, can be contacted on 07850 336587

WAG Open Meeting attracts wide ranging public support.


WAG’s open public meeting at Whiston Village Hall on Friday evening (02 Nov 2012) attracted over forty members of the public, not only local residents but people from villages throughout the Churnet Valley and other parts of the Staffordshire Moorlands, demonstrating wide ranging interest in concerns raised by WAG. An opening statement emphasised that WAG’s rigorous evidence based approach is intent on passing on conclusions based on facts – not opinions or gossip. Presentations were given by several speakers on a variety of issues, the most contentious being the Core Strategy Submission; Village House Building Proposals; Laver’s failure to restore Moneystone Quarry in accordance with the legally binding restoration plan, and public health concerns regarding the contaminated site at the Old Bolton Copperworks.

The District Council’s Core Strategy document, consider by many to be neither legally compliant nor sound, is currently being considered by the independent Planning Inspectorate. The inspector, Mr Patrick Whitehead, is to hold a Pre-Hearing Meeting at 10am Tuesday 11 Dec 2012 at the Bethel Suite, Tape Street, Cheadle, where he will set out the procedure and arrangements for his formal examination to be held in February of next year at Leek Council Offices. Anyone who made representations about the Core Strategy is encouraged to attend.

The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), submitted as a last minute addition to the Core Strategy, raised many eyebrows. The document, compiled by SMDC officers in liaison with only landowners and developers, identifies and prioritises specific plots of land with housing potential in and around many villages in the Staffordshire Moorlands. Both during and after the meeting numerous attendees expressed their dissatisfaction with the complete absence of consultation by the District Council on this important issue.   The document has been submitted with the Core Strategy without public input.

On 11 Sep 2012 Laver Leisure circulated a letter to households in Whiston, Oakamoor and surrounding villages stating their intention of submitting within two weeks proposals to Staffordshire County Council to change the longstanding and legally binding requirement to restore Moneystone Quarry to farmland. No such application has been submitted and consequently, in the absence of any further communication from Laver to residents, a state of uncertainty exists within the community as to Laver’s future intentions.

The audience was surprised to learn that the Old Bolton’s Copper Works site is not recorded on the District Council’s contaminated land register, despite the council’s own specially commissioned Taylor Young Report identifying high levels of contaminants and a serious public health risk. In addition, a portfolio of evidence gathered from ex-employees pointing out precisely where contaminants are buried has been submitted to the council, who can have no excuse for failing to act. However, it is perhaps re-assuring that following representations from the Foxt Action Group the concerns have now been registered with the Environment Agency, with an investigation pending.

On a more positive note, there was considerable support for WAG’s Quiet Lane initiative, aimed at overcoming some of the tourist related traffic problems of increasing numbers of vehicles inappropriately using the Churnet Valley’s narrow country lanes. WAG has already received supportive comments from Karen Bradley MP, and now County Councillor Mike Worthington has been nominated by the Highway Authority to deal with the matter. WAG’s public survey of 100 road users demonstrated unanimous support from both residents and visitors. WAG’s proposal for a pilot scheme along The Red Road between Oakamoor and Alton, with suggested funding from Alton Towers monies committed as a condition under their last planning consent, is currently under consideration by Councillor Worthington. The pilot scheme would be a first step in achieving a network of Quiet Lanes in the core of the Churnet Valley, so that cyclists, horse riders and walkers could safely share our narrow lanes with slow moving vehicles driven with care and consideration.

Overall, a high level of enthusiastic support was received from attendees and after the meeting, Harry Blood, Chairman of Whiston Action Group, commented:-

 “I was very pleased with the turnout, particularly the interest and support shown by newcomers, as we continue to challenge inappropriate decisions that will affect our communities in the Churnet Valley for years to come. The importance of keeping locals in the picture on future plans for the Churnet Valley is exactly what the Government is expecting local councils to do. Sadly that message is largely ignored by SMDC. WAG is clearly filling a local need which is why the meeting went so well.”


Whiston Action Group Public Open Meeting 7pm Fri 02 Nov 2012

Title: WAG Public Open Meeting 7pm Fri 02 Nov 2012.
Location: Whiston Village Hall
Description: Public open meeting to update residents on Council Plans for Housing Development Sites, and tourism development at Moneystone Quarry, Bolton’s Copper Works and the Churnet Valley. A slide show presentation followed by a question and answer session. Light refreshments provided. All welcome.
Start Time: 19:00:00
Date: 2012/11/02
End Time: 22:00:00

No consultation on Housing Proposals for Moorland Villages

Without any public consultation Staffordshire Moorlands District Council has put forward a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), identifying potential plots for house building in Moorlands villages.   The plans are based upon the aspirations of landowners and developers and could influence where houses are built through until 2026.  The SHLAA has been submitted as a last minute addition to the District Council’s Core Strategy plan forwarded to the Government Inspector on 12 September 2012.


Whiston Action Group has drawn Whiston residents’ attention to the lack of public consultation via the following newsletter.  Maps for all villages are available for the public to see on the Staffordshire Moorlands web site.  Follow the link  below:-




Dear Resident,                                                                                                                                                                 Sep 2012


Potential Housing Development in Whiston.


  • The map overleaf shows sites in Whiston, where land owners or developers have made approaches to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) expressing interest in building houses.


  • As part of the recently published and widely criticised Core Strategy Document, SMDC is required to produce and consult upon a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA). The District Council is currently considering expressions of interest from land owners and developers to decide where houses should be built in the future, but has made little attempt to publically advertise what it is doing.  On your behalf WAG have researched the SHLAA documentation and finds it worrying.  The process by which it is being compiled is very opaque.


  • You may care to visit the SMDC website and see for yourself what outline proposals SMDC is considering for our village.



  • WAG has uncovered more detailed information on specific sites, which can be viewed by visiting WAG’s website at

www.whiston-action-group.co.uk  If you find out any more information please contact a member of WAG.


  • In the recent past, planning applications have been processed by the district council and even our own local parish council without there being adequate public consultation, which is a matter of serious concern.  It is therefore important that we all know about and engage in future proposals for the village.


  • If you have any concerns, now is the time to approach our Councillors and SMDC to ask for information.  You can contact either of our two district councillors,


 Elsie Fallows on 07860 188830 or Josie Clowes  on  01538 750377.


  • Councillors Fallows and Clowes are the two elected district councillors for our area. Both have the responsibility to make representations on your behalf at District Council meetings. This is your community. You are entitled to know who is planning what and to have involvement directly in the discussions.  So far only landowners and developers have been involved. You might want to ask why.  Do not allow yourself to be fobbed off – demand answers.  Other District Councils are holding public consultations in shaping their SHLAA.   Ask SMDC why they have not asked you?


Harry Blood,


Whiston Action Group






• Additional housing provision is best suited closer to employment near the towns of Leek, Biddulph and Cheadle.
• Other than housing to meet local need, additional housing is inappropriate in the Churnet Valley protected areas as it simply adds to commuter traffic on the roads.