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WE’RE CRUSHED

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4 years, 2 months agoNo Comments.
13 SEP

WE’RE CRUSHED

By timesecholife on in Latest News

FURIOUS CAMPAIGNERS DESCRIBE RULING ON LEISURE PARK PLAN AS BITTER BLOW

PROTESTERS have been left stunned by a decision which paves the way for the development of a leisure park at a former quarry.
A High Court judge has backed Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s decision to approve the development of 250 holiday lodges and leisure facilities at Moneystone, near Whiston.
The ruling seems to spell the end of a long-running campaign by residents keen to see the scheme thrown out and was described this week as a ‘kick in the teeth’ to the area.
Proposals by Laver Leisure for holiday lodges and associated facilities including a spa, bowling alley, cinema and gym along with water sports centre, play areas and cafe, first went before district planners in 2014.
The original plans were eventually thrown out but a revised application, featuring scaled down proposals, was approved last year despite a string of objections from civic leaders, villagers and conservation groups.
The decision was challenged by resident Paul Housiaux, of nearby Whiston Eaves Lane, but his appeal was dismissed in the High Court last week, according to SMDC.
Judge Pelling QC also awarded the council costs of £5,000 and refused permission to appeal.
Ivor Lucas, chairman of Kingsley Parish Council, said the decision goes against an enormous weight of public opinion.
“We’ve been fighting the plans for Moneystone for several years, so to hear that this development will now almost certain to go ahead has come as a shock – I can’t quite believe it.
“Almost every resident in Whiston has been dead against it from the start and this will be devastating for both them and the village itself.
“The roads to the site are completely unsuitable for the amount of traffic they’ll have to take, but the planners have ridden roughshod over everyone and don’t seem to care.
“They’re supposed to consider whether or not there is a need for this kind of development, so where is the need for a leisure park just down the road from Alton Towers?
“I really don’t understand what they were thinking when they approved it, but I was still confident we would win the fight in the end.
“The fact that this decision has gone in the district council’s favour is a bitter blow and a kick in the teeth to everyone.”
Phil Charles, chairman of nearby Oakamoor Parish Council, added: “We’re disappointed by the news.
“The council has consistently represented the majority view of our parishioners who consider this to be an over-sized and incongruous development in the heart of the Churnet Valley.”
John Williams, a member of Churnet Valley Conservation Society, described it as ‘a black day for the area’.
“We’ve been fighting this plan for many years and were convinced we had a good case,” he said.
“To hear the decision has gone against us after all this time is absolutely heart-breaking.
“Aside from the massive impact this will have on the Churnet Valley, the road infrastructure in that area is simply not good enough – and it simply hasn’t been properly addressed.
“The council claims the scheme will deliver huge economic benefits to the area, but I’m not convinced about that either.
“There might be a number of jobs in the offing, but will they go to local people or are people likely to come in from further afield or even Europe?
“But assuming this goes ahead now, we’ll just have to get on with it and try to ensure we get the best deal we can for the area.”
Resident John Higgins, who lives near the quarry site, said: “I’ve been campaigning for a decade to have Churnet Valley named as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
“But the chances of achieving proper protection for it is now all but lost, with catastrophic consequences for local residents and wildlife – and all for what?
“The money flowing into Moneystone Park will simply line the pockets of the operators.
“The district council have badly let down local residents for the sake of outside interests and it’s a sad day for us all.”
Councillor Stephen Ellis, chair of the SMDC planning committee, insisted the scheme would deliver ‘significant benefits’ to the area.
He said: “Applications can be contentious and there are always positives and negatives to projects like this. But we had to consider the balance of factors before making our decision.
“This will bring new tourists to the Moorlands and that will have a positive effect for shops in the area.
“It will create 250 jobs, boost services and provide a number of new facilities that local people, including those in Whiston and Oakamoor, will be able to use.
“The quarry site was specifically identified as a key opportunity for new leisure development in the Churnet Valley Masterplan, which was approved after a consultation process.
“So the principle of development there was already established – and in fact supported by a lot of people – this was an application that delivered on that principle.”
Cllr Ellis conceded access to the site was ‘far from ideal’, but added: “Our highways officers found additional traffic visiting the leisure park would not cause significant harm to roads in the area.
“Narrow lanes are not ideal for access of course, but that’s the nature of the Moorlands. We’ll do our best to keep them safe, look at speed limits and keep hedges trimmed back.
“The original application contained a plan to restrict traffic turning right towards the site from the A52, but we felt that was thrown out as we felt it’s impact would create more danger and be counter-productive.”
Cllr Ellis said he was satisfied with the High Court ruling.
“I’m pleased that Judge Pelling agreed with the council’s decision to grant consent for the scheme and that he made positive reference to the full and detailed report prepared by officers which clearly explained the issues for consideration.
“It is also gratifying that the Judge supported the way in which the committee reached its decision.”

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