SMDC Planning Applications committee are due to sit on Thursday (15/9/16) to hear SMD/2016/0378 the re-submission of their application to develop Moneystone Quarry into a huge leisure facility. Please all come along and show how much this means to you. The meeting commences at 2pm at Moorlands House, Stockwell Street, Leek ST13 6HQ. Looking forward to seeing you all there.
Laver Leisure were formally refused outline planning permission for their large holiday complex at Moneystone Quarry, in December 2015. Unfortunately this has not been the end of things. In April this year, Laver Leisure submitted an appeal against that decision, which is expected to be heard towards the end of this year. This will be heard by an independent inspector and Whiston Action Group has been working hard to ensure the inspector has all the facts in order to hear this as a fair case.
Then, while the rest of the UK was engrossed in the Brexit referendum, Laver Leisure submitted a revised outline planning application for their holiday complex, supposedly addressing the concerns of the Planning Applications Committee. In reality, the only changes are the movement of 14 lodges from one side of Eaves Lane to the other, the reduction in height of the hub building (from 12 metres to 8 metres) and a no right turn sign outside the entrance to the quarry. In fact this matter has also had its own application submitted as a separate entity. As you can imagine, none of these measures will make any real difference to the actual proposed development, so all previous arguments are still valid. In addition, the no-right-turn sign will only affect those leaving the quarry and certainly not those arriving and are likely to result in 3 point turns on Whiston Eaves Lane or the village hall car park and additional use of Blakely Lane. The number actually using Carr Bank, is likely to remain unchanged. Think what you would do faced with such a sign coming out of the quarry if you wanted to go to Alton Towers.
It is certainly not too late to object to these two planning applications. If you wish to make your voice heard, please visit SMDC’s website and search for applications SMD/2016/0378 and SMD/2016/0388 or follow the links below:-
A source close to SMDC planners has alerted WAG members that Laver and HOW Planning are to hold a secret meeting in Buxton next week so that SMDC Planners can help draft grounds of appeal.
Is this a step too far?
Does it not go against the democratically expressed views of the overwhelming majority of the Planning Committee on 26/11/15?
Whilst no one would object to Laver lodging an appeal as is their legal right, how can SMDC planners justify this clear snub to the members of the planning committee?
It is open to anybody to write to SMDC or any Councillor’s to challenge the propriety and probity of this development. WAG encourages the public to do so.
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
Centre for Policy Studies report claims that renewable energy is on course to be “the most expensive domestic policy disaster in modern British history”
The true cost of wind farms and other green power projects is far higher than ministers have admitted, a new Centre for Policy Studies report claims, claiming renewable energy will be “the most expensive policy disaster in modern British history”.
Scrapping the UK’s green energy targets in favour of gas-fired power plants would save consumers £214 a year by 2020, the report suggests – despite ministers’ insistence that the total impact of the policies will be only £141 per household by then.
Wind and solar farms rely on subsidies to be economically viable and the costs of the subsidies are charged to consumers through so-called ‘green levies’ on energy bills.
“The costs of intermittent renewables are massively understated,” the CPS argues, accusing ministers of an unstated policy objective to deliberately “hide the full cost and operational implications” of green power.
As well as subsidies for the wind and solar farms, the CPS report points to the need for dozens of backup power plants to keep the lights on when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.
New wind farms are being built to help tackle global warming
Ministers have been forced to offer additional payments to gas and coal power plants because the intermittent nature of wind and solar power “wrecks the economics of conventional power stations”.
“To keep the lights on, everything ends up requiring subsidies,” the CPS says.
The costs of new cabling to connect up wind farms in remote parts of Britain and far off the coast are also not properly reflected in current assessments, it says.
The “patchwork of interventions” is an unduly costly way of keeping the lights on, the report argues.
It suggests that if ministers want to keep to their green energy targets they should renationalise their construction, so avoiding the need to subsidise private companies to build them for profit. Nationalisation would save consumers £92 a year by 2020, it estimates.
Ministers are backing a vast expansion of green energy under plans to help tackle global warming.
Under EU rules, the UK is required to generate 15 per cent of its total energy – including heat, power and transport – from renewable sources by 2020. In practice, this means 30 per cent of its electricity will need to come from renewables.
Official Government estimates, published last year, show that a typical household now pays £68 a year in green levies to subsidise renewable energy projects and to fund carbon taxes – about 5 per cent on an annual gas and electricity bill of £1,319.
By 2020 minister, the estimates suggest, such levies will hit £141, or 11 per cent of an annual bill of £1,319.
This includes the costs of more wind and solar farms being built and carbon taxes rising, as well as the Government’s estimate of the costs of the new scheme it is introducing to subsidise conventional power plants as backup for intermittent renewables.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy Climate Change said: “The figures in this report don’t add up and ignore the urgent need to cut our carbon emissions. We are making sure we can keep the lights on, cut carbon emissions and keep bills down for consumers.”
Planning Application: Moneystone Quarry SMD/2014/0682
Oakamoor Parish Council have reviewed this application and submit the following representations:
It is clear that this is a major concern for the parishioners of Oakamoor and in the view of OPC, for good reasons:
- Safety of Drivers: Access to, and egress from, Moneystone Quarry is via a narrow lane, and from the Oakamoor Village, negotiation of a 1 in 5 hill (one of the steepest in the country) and blind bends is necessary. The road was clearly not designed to accommodate more than light use. The large increase in vehicle numbers and the change of dynamic of the type of driver the majority of drivers being unfamiliar with the route who will be challenged with negotiating the existing road width, the steep incline, and the acute bends, (exacerbated in severe winter weather, when the road can remain ungritted and snow uncleared for days), will seriously compromise the safety for vehicle occupants. Additionally, the proximity of the site to Alton Towers which may have informed the applicants decision to progress the development in this location will generate further traffic on Carr Bank. We are aware of the applicants assertions that signage will direct traffic from Moneystone to Alton Towers via the A52. We are equally aware that drivers will ignore advisory signage, and rely on incar Satellite Navigation to direct them via the shortest route, via Carr Bank, and Farley Road (already an RTA hotspot). OPC are unaware of any provision for road widening, straightening or levelling, and therefore believe that as a result of the above, the development will pose unacceptable dangers to motorists using this stretch of road.
It should be noted that OPC are aware of three accidents on Carr Bank in the last month.
- Safety of Cyclists and Pedestrians: The terrain of the Churnet Valley and particularly the Oakamoor area attracts high (and growing) numbers of both visiting and local cyclists and walkers. Given the aforementioned access road features, OPC believe that the proposal will seriously compromise the safety of these groups.
- Safety of Horse Riders: We understand that the site neither contains, nor connects with any bridleways. Riders would therefore be forced to utilise the same public highways ie Whiston Eaves Lane and Carr Bank. Again, given the features of this road,OPC believe that this will create significant dangers to persons on horseback.
- Traffic impact on parishioners quality of life: With the continuing exponential growth of Alton Towers, Whiston Eaves Lane / Carr Bank is being increasingly used by visitors (who typically are unfamiliar with the terrain) and workers (who are often racing against the clock) as a rat run to this attraction. This is creating justified anxiety for parishioners who reside on this road. The development of another large attraction, to which access / egress can only be via Whiston Eaves Lane / Carr Bank will obviously increase numbers of vehicles being driven by those unfamiliar with the challenging road conditions both during construction and on completion of the development. This will only further diminish the quality of life for the occupants of dwellings sited on these roads.
- Conformance to the Churnet Valley Masterplan Principles:
- Principle 1: ‘Ensure that communities are at the heart of the Churnet Valley’
Recently OPC held an open day for Parishioners to better understand the application. A questionnaire prepared by the Parish Council was completed by 90% of attendees. Of those who completed the questionnaire, 90% were NOT in favour of the development. If SMDC are to truly conform to the principles of the Churnet Valley Masterplan, then the Parishioners overwhelming view; that the development is inappropriate, should carry sizable weight in the decision making process.
- Principle 2: Respect, enhance and protect the positive aspects of the Churnet Valley :
“by sustaining and enhancing the existing qualities and assets of the Churnet Valley which make the area unique”
“by ensuring that future development responds to and is sympathetic with the environmental, ecological and landscape limits and makes appropriate provision for the management of land and features for nature conservation and heritage and the enjoyment of areas of wildlife and geological interest”
“by ensuring the nature and scale of development is appropriate to its locality this may mean limited or no development is appropriate for parts of the Valley”.
○ The most positive aspects of the Churnet Valley are: its natural beauty, its tranquility, its flora & fauna, its physical and geological assets, and its pretty small villages / settlements which intersperse the natural landscape. To sustain and enhance the natural assets obviously requires careful management of visitor numbers. The proposed development will in one fell swoop double the human habitation of the Southern end of the valley from (and including) Oakamoor to Whiston villages. This will, undoubtedly, dramatically reduce the tranquility of the surrounding countryside, diminish its natural beauty and potentially negatively impact its flora and fauna. It neither responds to, nor is it sympathetic to the environmental, ecological or landscape limits of its surroundings.
○ As previously outlined, many of the roads in and around Moneystone and Oakamoor suffer from very high traffic levels as a result of Alton Towers. Carr Bank & Whiston Eaves Lane remain relatively peaceful, and as a result, form part of the quiet countryside which is seen as such a positive aspect by residents, and the very reason visitors are attracted to this area. It is the view of Oakamoor Parish Council, that the positive aspects of the Churnet Valley must be respected and protected, and that this development runs counter to the aims of this principle.
Given that in the Churnet Valley, the “Family Fun” offer already (in terms of visitor numbers) completely overwhelms the “Countrysiders” segment, and that recorded in the CV Masterplan, the Countrysiders are considered to be the predominant target visitor group, it stands to reason, that no further development of this sector is appropriate for this part of the valley.
- Principle 3: ‘Support local enterprise and create local employment opportunities’
○ Interpreting the CV Masterplan as it is intended, the proposed development is clearly not ‘local enterprise’.
○ The unemployment rate in 2013.14 in the Staffordshire Moorlands was 4.1% , compared with a national average of 7.5%. The number of persons out of work in the Churnet ward in 2011 (latest available figures) was 24.
○ The type of jobs created will broadly mirror those at Alton Towers.
○ The 2012/13 Annual Monitoring Report identifies the need for higher skilled jobs in the Staffordshire Moorlands. OPC believes that the real employment benefits for “local” people are negligible.
- Principle 4: ‘Improve accessibility and connectivity’ : “by addressing traffic hotspots”
As previously outlined in (1), Oakamoor is already suffering substantially increased levels of traffic due to the continuous expansion of Alton Towers. This development will undoubtedly create a “traffic hotspot” in Oakamoor, for which the applicant is unable to proffer any workable solutions.
- Principle 5: ‘Deliver Quality & Sustainable Tourism’
“ by facilitating the development of the Churnet Valley as a visitor destination whilst respecting the environment”
“by promoting increased tourism and economic prosperity without causing harm to essential qualities of landscape, ecology, heritage and remoteness that the Churnet Valley is recognised for”
“by promoting a year round visitor offer and dispersing visitors to increase benefit to the local economy by focusing on quality rather than quantity”
“by giving preference to incremental improvements which support existing businesses”
OPC asserts that the proposed development is inconsistent with all of the above requirements of Principle 5.
- Meeting the needs of the Tourism offer in the Churnet Valley
- The Churnet Valley Masterplan SPD (Sustainable Tourism and the Masterplan Principles section 5.1.18) highlights the importance of the visitor group ‘Countrysiders’ …… ‘ In summary, the focus of the Masterplan should be around attracting ‘Countrysiders’, with or without children, who best fit the offer and are most likely to be attracted by a rural destination, with a distinctive and quality offer…….
- The Churnet Valley Masterplan SPD (Glossary section 11.0.1) defines the term
‘Countrysiders’: Visitors primarily coming for a combination of experiences – activities, discovery / sightseeing, and rest and relaxation . Outdoor activities will be the predominant activity, but the natural environment / scenery will be a key underpinning appeal, [they] will however undertake a range of activities while staying in the area including heritage and natural history and will have a propensity to travel around / explore. They will be staying for an additional holiday / short break – typically in independent accommodation (B&B, self catering) – typical length of stay will be 2 to 3 nights or 6 to 7 nights. Demographically they will primarily be middleaged couples – travelling from a wide area. The Countrysiders are the main backbone of staying visitors to the Moorlands and most closely aligned with the visitor profile of the wider Peak District.
It is the view of OPC that the offer contained in this application, does not fulfill this criteria. Moreover and more disconcerting the development would have a negative impact on the numbers of ‘Countrysiders’ wishing to visit the area, due to the impact whether by traffic, site noise, or sheer numbers of people concentrated in the Southern end of the valley (saturation) on the ‘rest and relaxation’ of the targeted visitor group. If Countrysiders are seen in the Churnet Valley Masterplan as “the main backbone of staying visitors” then the impact of any development which potentially obstructs or negates achievement of this aim should be given very, very careful consideration.
- The NPPF clearly states that “land that has been developed for minerals is not “Previously Developed Land” , therefore, the Quarry is not a brownfield site. The quarry was located due to the presence of silica in the area. No other large scale industry would have been granted permission to operate in this location. Similarly, now economically removable reserves of silica have been exhausted, we believe that Moneystone Quarry should be viewed no differently than an unsullied countryside location.
- There remains an extant restoration plan which we understand is still not complete.
It is the view of OPC, that before any site development proposal is considered by SMDC the restoration plan should be completed.
- Conformance to the Adopted ‘Staffordshire Moorlands Core Strategy’:
The Churnet Valley is identified as an area for sustainable tourism and rural regeneration, and SS7 clearly outlines fundamental principles within this aim:
- “Any development should be of a scale and nature and of a high standard of design which conserves and enhances the heritage, landscape and biodiversity of the area and demonstrate strong sustainable development and environmental management principles. The consideration of landscape character will be paramount in all development proposals in order to protect and conserve locally distinctive qualities and sense of place and to maximize opportunities for restoring, strengthening and enhancing distinctive landscape features. ”
OPC assert that not only, does the proposed development does not support any of these principles, it is in fact contradictory to the underlying tenet contained within this statement.
- The Spacial Strategy for the Staffordshire Moorlands states: “ In the smaller villages there will be limited development only, principally for local housing needs and rural diversification, whilst the countryside areas outside market towns and villages, including hamlets and other small settlements, will be subject to strict control over development with an emphasis on meeting essential rural needs promoting environmental enhancement including landscape and biodiversity, and on encouraging appropriate economic diversification and tourism. In order to facilitate development ‘Infill Boundaries’ will be defined for the smaller villages within which appropriate development would be allowed. Major developed areas in the countryside will also be identified where an appropriate range of uses would be permitted to support rural needs .”
Given that Oakamoor and Whiston are categorised as ‘Small Villages’ OPC would encourage SMDC to view the proposed development within the context of the above statement.
- NPPF Sustainability
- Staffordshire Moorlands Core Strategy SS7 states: “ Sustainable tourism is tourism which takes account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, balancing the needs of visitors, the economy, the environment and host communities. Tourism development must not be at the expense of the special qualities of the Churnet Valley which draw so many people to the area. A very sensitive approach to the provision and expansion of facilities and accommodation will therefore be required to ensure that it is of an appropriate scale and design and compatible with the nature of the local area and enhances the heritage, landscape and ecology of the Churnet Valley”
OPC believe that SMDC should be commended in recognising the special qualities of the Churnet Valley within the Core Strategy and CV Masterplan documents. The challenge now for SMDC regarding this planning application, is to support the rhetoric with appropriate complementary actions. OPC believe that the proposed development, would be best described as “ Of in appropriate scale and design and in compatible with the nature of the local area and diminishes the heritage, landscape and ecology of the Churnet Valley”
- In reviewing the Operation of the National Planning Policy Framework, the Communities and Local Government Committee recently highlighted the following: [ A recurring concern in our evidence was that greater emphasis was being given to the economic dimension of sustainable development than to the environmental and social ones.]
It is the view of OPC, that SMDC have tacitly supported the outline proposals created by the applicant from its inception, whilst maintaining an outward impression of a balanced, open minded, and impartial approach. OPC assert that SMDC have actually been influenced too heavily by the economic dimension, without due consideration being given to the environmental and social impact of such an outsized development. OPC request that SMDC review their approach to this application, with a greater emphasis on an equitable and consistent balance between the three facets of sustainable development as outlined in the NPPF. On completion of this we would postulate that the negative impact on the social and environmental facets would far outweigh the perceived economic benefits.
- Development and Management Principles
The Churnet Valley Masterplan SPD 8.5 Economic Development states: “New employment uses should preferably use existing rural buildings in locations which are well served from the main road network or be located in specific employment areas which are capable of serving businesses. Alternative uses for existing employment areas will only be supported where the premises or site is unsuitable or unviable for continued employment use”.
It is the view of OPC that the proposed development does not meet any of the criteria set out in this principle.
It is clear to Oakamoor Parish Council that the proposed development fails to fulfill so many of the fundamental principles contained within the Churnet Valley Masterplan SPD, the appropriate elements of the Core Strategy, and the NPPF.
We therefore strongly oppose without reservation this planning application.
Jeff Wood, Clerk to Oakamoor Parish Council
New rules will ensure more agricultural land is dedicated to growing crops and food
Farmers will lose their right to claim subsidies for fields filled with solar panels under new plans to ensure more agricultural land is dedicated to growing crops and food. The move will help rural communities who do not want their countryside blighted by solar farms.
Britain has some of the best farmland in the world and ministers want to see it dedicated to agriculture to help boost our food and farming industry that is worth £97 billion to the economy.
The change, which will come into effect from January 2015, will mean that farmers who choose to use fields for solar panels will not be eligible for any farm subsidy payments available through the Common Agricultural Policy for that land.
Environment Secretary, Elizabeth Truss said:
English farmland is some of the best in the world and I want to see it dedicated to growing quality food and crops. I do not want to see its productive potential wasted and its appearance blighted by solar farms. Farming is what our farms are for and it is what keeps our landscape beautiful.
I am committed to food production in this country and it makes my heart sink to see row upon row of solar panels where once there was a field of wheat or grassland for livestock to graze.That is why I am scrapping farming subsidies for solar fields. Solar panels are best placed on the 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial rooftops where they will not compromise the success of our agricultural industry.
The subsidy change will also save up to £2 million of taxpayers’ money each year that won’t be available for these subsidies. The reform follows other government measures designed to end support for solar farms in agricultural fields. The Department for Energy and Climate Change recently announced that renewable energy subsidies for new large-scale solar farms will end next April. This year, the Department for Communities and Local Government amended planning rules to ensure that whenever possible solar installations are not put in fields that could be used for farming.
The changes the government is making are expected to slow down the growth of solar farms in the countryside in England. There are currently 250 installed, with the biggest covering as much as 100 hectares. Under previous plans, the number of fields dedicated to solar farms was set to increase rapidly, with over 1,000 ground-based solar farms expected by the end of the decade across the UK. These changes should help to halt this expansion as it will now become less financially attractive for farmers to install the solar panels.
The decision is part of a drive by environment ministers to ensure that the new Common Agricultural Policy delivers maximum benefits for the English food and farming industry, as well as providing greater benefits for rural communities, the environment and wildlife.
Find out more about how the new Common Agricultural Policy is being implemented in England.
Photo credit: vittavat-a/iStock/Thinkstock
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.
A large number of residents turned out last Saturday, and braved the treacherous roads to make a strong statement to the decision makers of the Staffordshire Moorlands.
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.
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 the ‘Overarching 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 that ‘overarching 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 would ‘cause harm to the essential qualities of landscape, ecology [and] heritage.’
- 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.
- The application does not demonstrate ‘a strong emphasis on supporting [the existing] heritage.’ It should be rejected.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- ‘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 not ‘Promote 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.
- 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.
- The application is antipathetic to the CVMP aim to ‘develop healthy sustainable communities.’
- 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.’
- The application fails to fit within the aims and aspirations of the Staffordshire Tourism Study  [STS 2011] that ‘seeks 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.