The resident’s report is followed by comments from ARAG and notice of future presentations on the proposals.
White Moss Quarry
Development Meeting: Bank Corner - Monday 4th March 2013
- Lee Dawkin (Land Development)
- Alan Thornley (Planning)
The meeting was attended by about 12 Alsager residents, mostly from Close Lane and Nursery Road. Many of these residents demonstrated how well-informed they are about the history of this site and the issues surrounding it
Much of the meeting was led by Alan Thornley, formerly Planning Officer of Cheshire County Council until his retirement in July 2007. He was reminded by residents, however, that he had attended, as an observer, the Quarry Aggregate Agreement meeting in 2008.
Overview of the Meeting
- The purpose of the presentation was ‘to gauge people’s views’ and it was suggested that the draft plans available at the meeting are not set in stone.
- Throughout the evening, the development was presented as a kind of ‘least worst option’: the presenters argued that it would be better to build where there is a quarry currently (Brownfield and described as an ‘eyesore’) rather than on the Greenfield sites that were under threat; the quarry could continue operating until 2028 or even 2042; even if ‘restored’ at some point in the future there would be no greater public access to the privately- owned land other than designated footpaths (Health and Safety reasons were cited); it was claimed that the impact on Alsager would be less than other projected sites because traffic would be travelling towards the M6 and Crewe direction rather than through the town.
- It was clear that the presenters regarded the site as having impact upon the infrastructure of Alsager and its administrative location within Haslington is clearly an irrelevance in real terms There is a Town Council presentation on 11 March and it is to be hoped that common sense will prevail in these discussions
- It was equally clear that any impact on the Town infrastructure had not been of primary concern to the presenters and close questioning by the audience elicited the formulaic answers about commuted payments, 106 Agreements and even building a new school!
- When challenged to admit that this was a speculative profit-driven proposal to make the most money out of the site regardless of the community, the response from Alan Thornley suggested that residents should support this site again as a’ least worst option’ and as protection against Cheshire East Council dumping other unwanted Development on Alsager’s Greenfield sites if it could not get enough residential homes in the northern part of the region. This was a fairly consistent ‘theme’ throughout the evening’s discussions.
- If Planning permission were to be granted, contouring of the land to prepare it for building development would happen over the first 18 months. The houses would be built in phases, dependent upon market conditions, over the next 10-15 years.
- There was a robust debate regarding public access following the restoration of the land to wetlands etc. Sylvia Dyke argued that everything should be open to the public. Alan Thornley responded that there was ‘no legal agreement’ to require Beecroft to allow public access to his private land other than existing public footpaths. This was contested. The inherent ‘threat’ here to the community was that ‘even if the land is restored you won’t be any better off so you may as well support the development’. The land would have to be taken over by Cheshire East Council to permit greater public access and it was unlikely that it would have the funding to do so.
- The silt lagoons will not be suitable for building and so building will be restricted to solid ground. A topographical survey is in progress and should be completed next week. There would be consultation with the Environment Agency regarding flood levels.
- The presenters were clear that they see this site as targeted mainly on commuters who would regard Alsager as a desirable place to live with easy access to the M6.
- Residents outlined a profile for the site that would involve a more ‘mixed use’ approach including the development of water sports, angling etc. The example of Astbury Mere was cited as a model for a rather different approach. Such suggestions did not seem to be of much interest to the presenters.
There will be a public presentation on 15 March and ARAG Officers recommend that residents try to attend this event to express your views and concerns. Residents are faced here with a Development Proposal that is presented as a ‘ least worst option available’ and one that acknowledges that the ‘Key Service Centre’ will be Alsager. It will be important that residents demand that, if this Development is to be supported, that common sense prevails regarding administrative boundaries. The presenters of this project clearly argued that the Development would ‘protect’ Alsager from further development on other sites. It would be strange therefore if the view expressed by one or two Councillors regarding what are administrative boundaries would take precedence over common sense and reality. To cite the National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF]:
Planning must be a creative exercise in finding ways to enhance and improve the places in which we live our lives.