Category Archives: parish council

NEWS: TV barn / flagpole? / dance in Draycott / Covid recedes

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors & District in mid August 2021
In this post we have news of…: Cow barn on TV / flags for village centre? / welcome to new dance-school / the effect of Covid.

For news of what’s on in our area at this time, please click here

_ _ _
Before, a barn; Now, a home

It’s a good bet that many people in Draycott watched the ‘Great British Home Restoration’ TV programme on More4 on Sunday night. It featured the Barn-On-The-Rocks house (opposite the Draycott Arms), which has been lovingly transformed over the last few years from an old cow barn into a family home.

Charlie Luxton, presenter, with Sarah & George Plant, and Bonnie (Pic: Channel 4)

Goodness though: what a lot of toil and trouble that Sarah & George Plant (and Bonnie the baby) went to, to get it done! At one point, as they dug down, they hit sheer rock before they expected to – that was a tough moment… All in all, a really interesting programme.

Barn On The Rocks
The barn, as it was originally

One important aspect, as far as the village as a whole is concerned, is that the 200 year-old barn still retains its character from the outside. The exterior conversion has been faithful to the spirit of the past, and that (for us, anyway) is quite important – thanks for that to the Plants.
For more reaction, check out the village Facebook page.
You can still see the programme (on Channel More4 catch-up); or do have a look at the photos, on the Plants’ Instagram account @thebarnconversion; or read the report in the Sentinel.
_ _ _
To flag, or not to flag

Draycott Council seems unsure what to do with the ‘Village Centrepoint’ (the patch of ground surrounded by posts on the central junction). Though residents have come up with more than a few ideas, the project seems to lack a co-ordinated approach.
The latest suggestion from the council is to place an eight-metre high flagpole on it. The idea has been costed and will come to around £600.

Flagpole at Draycott Church

We’re not sure about this.
There is already a flagpole one hundred yards away, at the church (see pic above), so why another put up another, very expensive, one so close?
Public flag placements are very symbolic, and are subject to a number of strict procedures – so is there an individual to be found who can do the raising, lowering and changing of the flags in the necessary frequent, proper and respectful ways?
The centrepoint has already been subject to vandalism (when some of the posts were broken, two months ago) – so how will the flagpole be protected?
And finally, does the village want a flagpole there at all? The councillors have done no consultation on the matter at all, and we feel they should.

Incidentally, don’t forget that Draycott Council is currently looking for volunteers to come forward to sit on the council. You have until September 6th to put in a letter saying you’re prepared to serve.
_ _ _
Welcome to the dance

Yes, welcome to the Garland & Pearce School of Dance & Performing Arts, which has now decided to take up residence at the Draycott Sports Centre after being based in Uttoxeter for some time. So, it sounds like we have our very own ‘Fame’ school!
Following their re-location in June, they are now underway with their classes, including a summer school (see our What’s On page for details).
Well done too to the Draycott Sports Centre, which is proving a very inclusive organisation, and is to be congratulated.

(By contrast to the sports centre, the so-called ‘communuity hub pavilion’ at the cricket club in Cresswell has barely made an impression on the life of the village. Surely the club needs to start fulfilling its promises…?)
_ _ _
Covid – receding?

Without wishing to tempt fate – who knows what is still to happen? – it looks like we are over the worst of Covid. But all of us will know someone who caught it, and suffered. Some of us will even know friends who died.

Across the UK, the stats show that more than 130,000 people have died of the disease during the pandemic so far.
Now, local stats have also been collated, and the figures for North Staffordshire show that, during the two worst periods, there were 25% more ‘excess deaths’ in the population in our region. This means that, for every 40 deaths, eight of them were ‘excess’ to the normal pattern, and nearly all of these were of Covid-infected people.
It’s a very sad statistic – and North Staffs was not even the worst-hit…

***
Want to comment on any of the items on this page?  Just use the comments box – scroll down to near the bottom of this page.
(The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email address, that means you might miss any responses to your comment)

If you’d like an email from us each fortnight alerting you to the latest Draycott & District news, please click the ‘Follow’ button in the top right-hand corner of this webpage

NEWS: co-option to come / tidy churchyard / 2nd solar farm / fun summer / local history ‘lab’

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors & District in mid July 2021
In this post we have news of…: nominate a new councillor / Cresswell’s tidy graveyard / second solar farm coming / history initiative / a great summer for the kids!

For news of what’s on in our area at this time, please click here

_ _ _
Nominate yourself to be a councillor

As you will know, three councillors resigned off the Draycott village council last month, so it was possible an election would be called.
The council itself posted an odd piece of advice on its website, which said: “…. an election does not need to be called… this will … incur costs to the public via the precept (ie council tax). An election will cost the parish council.” While it’s true that all elections have a cash cost, councils are not supposed to be stepping in to make a case against holding elections! (At the very least, they should be putting in the positive reasons for elections, as well). The words have since been deleted.

So, no election has been called. But… how to replace the missing councillors?
Basically, the way it works is that local people should now simply put themselves forward (don’t be shy now!) for the vacancies. A brief letter to the clerk of the council asking for information will start the ball rolling.

Nearly all electors in Draycott, Cresswell, Totmonslow, Newton, Huntley, Draycott Cross, Bromley Wood are eligible. Residents of Blythe Bridge, Tean, Fulford, Hilderstone, Cheadle, Forsbrook, and Saverley Green are also eligible (under the three-mile rule).
So … write that letter!

_ _ _
Summer of fun

You can tell that we’ve reached Freedom Day, simply by the huge number of local summer events – especially for children – that have been announced in the last weeks.
There are plenty of kids’ workshops; and it’s wonderful to see that the annual Draycott St Margaret’s Fayre is returning after its year away.

Check out all the events by having a look at our What’s On page.
_ _ _
Local History gets a boost

Anyone interested in the history of this area will be excited to see the creation of a dedicated local ‘History Lab’. This has been formed in order to start researching the history of a block of seven parishes in the Eastern (Uttoxeter) part of Staffordshire: Draycott-in-the-Moors, plus Checkley, Gratwich, Kingstone, Uttoxeter, Bramshall, and Leigh..

Old map of the East Staffs parishes, showing turnpike roads, old rail lines

It’s run by volunteers, who report their researches into the professional historians at the VCH (Victoria County History) organisation. The group has already been publishing some of its findings in a blog, though none have been directly about Draycott as yet.
If you fancy helping out, simply write to them via their ‘Contact’ page.
_ _ _
Second ‘solar’ farm

The process toward setting up a second solar farm in our district is now underway. Basically, the company behind it, called Third Revolution, want to take a few fields in Totmonslow in which to set up an array of hundreds of so-called ‘fins’, which absorb sunlight and turn it into electricity.

Solar farm (on Creative Licence)
Photo of fins on a typical solar farm

The new set-up, if it comes off, will be just yards away from the one we have already in Lower Newton, which has been running successfully for ten years.

Site of proposed new Totmonslow solar farm, in red. The current solar farm is in light green, just the other side of the A50

The application in process at the moment is a preliminary one, not the main thing – but already there are a couple of worries, mostly about whether footpaths will have to be diverted.

Our own Draycott Council was asked by the local authorities to add their comments on the matter, but… guess what? The council had no thoughts whatsoever… as so often… Sigh.
(We do need new councillors…!)

_ _ _
Tidy churchyard

Cresswellians will have noticed that, since the winter, the historic churchyard at St Mary’s Catholic Church has been looking very tidy and spruce. The man behind the transformation is local man James Heath.

Although St Margaret’s churchyard is cared for by Staffs Moorlands Council workers – because it is the main parish church -, other denominations, such as St Mary’s, must look after their grounds themselves. So James, helped by his dad, has stepped up to do the work, and six months of labour has really seen a change for the better.

Cresswell churchyard – looking spruce

Local historians are especially pleased, because James has cleared back a lot of the vegetation that was hiding the inscriptions on some gravestones, and which had virtually hidden some graves altogether!

If you do pass by, it’s worth dropping in to have a look.
While you’re there, check out the graveyard cross: this is a listed monument, designed by the famous nineteenth-century architect Augustus Pugin.

***
Want to comment on any of the items on this page?  Just use the comments box – scroll down to near the bottom of this page.
(The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email address, that means you might miss any responses to your comment)

If you’d like an email from us each fortnight alerting you to the latest Draycott & District news, please click the ‘Follow’ button in the top right-hand corner of this webpage

Council matters

In in this particular post, we had hoped to write about something different than affairs surrounding our village council, but (sadly) they seem to have come to the fore again.
In this post, we’ll look at: the unexplained resignations that recently occurred; the council’s odd reaction to a planning document; and a ban on mentioning council matters on the village Facebook page.

Resignations

For those who don’t know, we had the resignation of nearly half of our councillors suddenly, and apparently simultaneously, from Draycott Council. The three councillors were the younger members of the council, and all three had been newly-elected in 2019.
The suddeness of it is very strange as, at May’s council meeting, these same councillors had been sorting out their roles for the coming year of 2021/2.

Letter writing

The trio’s resignation letters gave very little detail as to why they made their decisions, but there seems no reason to think it was a joint resignation by the trio. One of the resigners had not been attending that many meetings recently anyway; and another has since explained the one of the reasons for her resignation was that the overwhelming stress of the Covid lockdown was just adding to her already difficult caring responsibilities.

There were though strange hints at the council’s June meeting that some sort of poison-pen activity was going on. However, this seems unlikely, as it is a criminal offence to target a public official – councils are urged to report that sort of thing to the police – and no suggestion of that has come out officially. (Although, in fact, there has been poison pen activity at Draycott Council in the recent past, when a chair of the council felt compelled to resign in disgust).
Some folk have also thought a possible trigger for the resignations was an article criticising the council’s lack of action on some matters – but that was published in mid-April, a full three weeks before the resignations.

So, who knows what really happened? Is it possible that the resigners were simply just very tired? Covid has made life very difficult for all of us, and the extra stresses it has brought with it have not made life much fun.

One outcome of the resignations is that residents now have to decide if they want an election to replace the resigners; the deadline for a decision is this Sunday (28th June). To see how all that would work, click here.

++
Opportunity missed

One of the few tasks that Draycott Council has an obligation to carry out is to scrutinise planning documents that are put before it. However, at their June meeting, the councillors had a surprising reaction to a document assessing the environmental issues on the new proposed Blythe Fields (Phase Two) housing estate. (This is the second of three large housing estates planned to be built in our neighbourhood).
They claimed the document was unreadable… One councillor said it was “nonsense”, another that it was “gobbledegook”, while the other councillors simply remained silent – and the council simply then refused to deal with it.

This was a puzzle to us! Though it’s in normal ‘officialese’, it didn’t seem that hard to read. (Have a go yourself – click here to see the document).

Blythe Fields (Phase Two) housing estate is the part marked in red

And it’s a shame the councillors didn’t try a bit harder, as there are some details in the document that are very important.
The document reveals for the first time: how many houses will be on the proposed development (up to 230); the estimated traffic movements on the site (over 1000 a day); the concerns about air pollution from the A50 in the new homes; and a previously-unheard assertion that local people will likely get houses on the new estate. The document also reveals that some of the agricultural land that will be lost to the development is of the ‘best’ quality. All this should have been questioned by the council in a formal response – which they ducked out of.
The developers must thank their lucky stars for what an easy ride they are getting!!

As it is, only two responses were lodged in the public consultation, one by a local resident – to see them, click on the EIA (Blythe Fields) Application page, and scroll down to the bottom where you’ll find the two responses.

We have pleaded with the council in the past to invite local residents with expertise in the planning field to act as their ‘advisors’ , especially at times when they feel unable to cope – but our advice has fallen on deaf ears so far.
… which means that the developers can carry on happily, with barely an ounce of scrutiny from our representatives.

++
Gagging rule

Finally, one outcome of all this is that the administrator of the village facebook page has placed a ban on discussion of anything to do with the village council.
All sorts of wild talk and accusations were flying about on the page following the resignations, and the Shouters & Bawlers (as Facebook calls them) were indeed getting aggressive – writing in capitals, targeting individuals, and all the other well-known signs. So the administrator’s actions are understandable.

It is a shame though. Our council’s decisions (or lack of) are rightly the focus of how this small district sees itself and how it wants to progress. People often feel relatively helpless, and look to the council for leadership and communication, as well as some response to their worries.
So, It is a great shame that there is now no local forum on which to discuss and debate (in reasonable and evidenced ways, naturally) anything to do with the council.
Oh well.
Modern life, eh?

***
Want to comment on any of the items on this page?  Just use the comments box – scroll down to near the bottom of this page.
(The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email address, that means you might miss any responses to your comment)

If you’d like an email from us each fortnight alerting you to the latest Draycott & District news, please click the ‘Follow’ button in the top right-hand corner of this webpage

Do you have news or information snippets that you think residents would like to see up on this website? If so – email us

Choosing new councillors

The surprise news that three councillors have suddenly resigned from Draycott Council means that a procedure to fill the empty seats must now be put in train. The council has already issued the ‘vacancies notice’.

What happens now? Well, the official line is: “If someone would like to see an election take place for the vacant posts, they must send a letter to that effect, under-signed by ten local electors, to the official Returning Officer (at Leek) by midnight on the 28th June.  If no election is requested, the councillors themselves will decide who should fill the posts.”

Democracy & elections

On the face of it, a by-election is a good thing.  Democracy thrives on electors having a voice in who they want to represent them. Leaving the choice to councillors is a poor second-best.
Also, Draycott Council, like all councils, sets aside a financial reserve, ready each year, so that it has all the cash it needs to pay for an election. (Village councils cannot carry out their own elections, but must pay a recognised authority to do it for them).
In the last twenty years, Draycott has only had two bye-elections, so the election reserve is pretty big!

The main stumbling block is that a by-election will cost around £3,500 – a third of the council’s yearly income.  Elections are a good thing in principle, but some in the village argue that this is too much to spend, and would prefer no election to happen.
Elections have become more expensive since 2014 when Moorlands councils have had to pay the whole cost of them. The greater use of postal votes has also sent the costs of an election up.
Nevertheless, we should not be put off elections simply because they are not free. It’s an obvious thing to say but – Democracy is not free.

Process?

An election will occur if ten Draycott electors sign a letter saying they would like one to happen (and the letter is delivered on time!).   They can do this even if they don’t know if anyone is going to stand.
Most people who live in Draycott, Cresswell, Totmonslow, Draycott Cross, Bromley Wood, Painsley and Newton will be ‘electors’.

Co-option

If no election is called, ‘co-option’ occurs – the process whereby the four remaining Draycott councillors choose who should fill the empty seats.
Many democrats dislike co-option, which is too often a secret process whereby sitting councillors simply ask their friends to come and join them – also known as ‘cronyism’. Campaigners have been saying for a long time that village councils must have a protocol in place for co-option, one that is transparent and fair. But Draycott Council does not have one, so the four sitting councillors can – more or less – just do what they like, in theory.
(A local resident did draw up a co-option protocol intended for discussion at the council’s last meeting – but the council refused to give the document a slot on the agenda.)

One solution

There is one compromise to the issue of democracy vs cost – but it requires the community to trust itself…

And this is it: … when/if the election is called, and, as soon as it’s called, those who intend to stand should announce themselves publicly (maybe on the village Facebook page, and/or via a poster in, say, the bus-shelter at Draycott junction).  The reason for this is that, in this instance, if more than three candidates come forward, they can then discuss among themselves which ones might volunteer to drop out, meaning an election-day would be unnecessary… and thus meaning no cost!
(If fewer than four candidates are on the ballot, no actual election is required, because the candidates are automatically selected for the three vacant places.)
It should be noted that, after a certain point (usually 18 days before the election date), candidates are not permitted to withdraw, so the discussions need to be quickly achieved.

However, such a compromise plan does rely on potential candidates being open with the community…

***
Want to comment on any of the items on this page?  Just use the comments box – scroll down to near the bottom of this page.
(The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email address, that means you might miss any responses to your comment)

If you’d like an email from us each fortnight alerting you to the latest Draycott & District news, please click the ‘Follow’ button in the top right-hand corner of this webpage

Do you have news or information snippets that you think residents would like to see up on this website? If so – email us

Time for councillors to resign

As we approach the annual general meeting of Draycott Council next month, it’s time once again to assess the councillors’ performance in these last twelve months.
And, looking at their record, all one can say is that it is so hopelessly dismal, that they should all resign forthwith.

The easiest way to point out our council’s embarrassing lack of achievement is to compare it against the work done by the three surrounding village councils – Forsbrook/Blythe Bridge, Fulford and Checkley/Tean. And that’s what this article is about.

By the end of this article, you might well agree that it would be a better thing for Draycott’s electors (in Draycott, Totmonslow, Cresswell, Newton etc) if the current crop of councillors simply stood down and let more energetic people take over.

Let’s look at the facts.

Covid response
In this country’s worst peacetime year for a century, nearby councils charged ahead, organising help-groups and getting grants. Fulford Council especially set a great example, putting out a special Covid newsletter, getting grants and setting up a specific action group; they even won an award for their efforts. Checkley Council recently created a small Covid memorial plantation.

But what have Draycott Council done to help? …nothing.
Local relief here was actually carried out by a small village community group and by volunteers at Blythe Bridge library.
Very poor.

No progress
Earlier this year, a resident asked at a meeting what hopes & strategy the council had for 2021. The answer was almost predictable… : ‘nothing particularly different to before’.
The resident went away, dissatisfied, to go on to become one of the founders of DCAT, the new Draycott Community Group.

A good example of how hopeless this council is is shown by its efforts to set up a Neighbourhood Plan. Over the years, three times they have started the process, including last year – only to see it collapse each time, meaning thousands of pounds has to be returned. The simple fact is these councillors lack the energy & belief to make it happen, and certainly have failed to inspire the local public.
Compare that with Checkley Council – where their five-year NPlan process is now very far advanced!
The energy in neighbouring councils is evident: Checkley and Forsbrook have even been out buying land for community projects in the last year.
And, after the NALC (National Association of Local Councils) declared a climate-action emergency more than a year ago, other local village councils have been busy setting up green policies – including Forsbrook, which has created space for a colony of bees.

By contrast, Draycott councillors have just been sitting on their hands.

Residents have been waiting & waiting: for the promised brass plaque to remember our local war dead (although the national WW1 Project started back in 2014!); for any sign of the so-called ‘Gateway’ signs for the village; for any sign of the renovation of the Draycott kiosk; for any sign of a solid local policy for the environment.
What we got instead in 2020 was … a new bin!
(It’s true that the VAS speed-signs went up last year, but that project was launched in 2018, and most of the work was done on it in 2019).

As you’d expect from all that lack of action, Draycott Council is now sitting on a fat financial reserve. Despite that, the council is still asking for the same level of council tax this year as before…
(In terms of population and responsibilities, Draycott-in-the-Moors is comparable to Caverswall, which asks for 20% less council tax).

Duties
Draycott Council has virtually no responsibilities. Unlike other surrounding councils, it manages no playground or cemetery or allotments. Because of this, it really only has two statutory duties: to comment on planning applications and to monitor the local footpath network. But the record on these is not good either.
Probably the most important planning application it was asked to look over last year was the one about the giant Blythe Fields housing estate. It completely failed to put in a comment. Which is pretty bad.
Despite promising a local-footpaths report in 2019, none has materialised. The promise was repeated in council early this year, but still nothing has appeared.

Communication
Draycott councillors admitted a few years ago that their lines of communication with local electors needed massive improvement – what was urgently need was more newsletters, development of a user-friendly website, better use of social media, engagement with local newspapers, more involvement with the local community. In other words, they needed to catch up with surrounding councils like Fulford (which produces its own monthly news updates) and Checkley, whose councillors formally liaise with their local organisations.
But in this past 12 months… you guessed it… no progress. In fact things have gone backward.

A promise to mail out two newsletters a year fizzled out (though the council did piggy-back a newsletter made by the DSGroup).
Councillors stopped engaging formally on the village Facebook page.
The website has seen no improvements.
Nowadays, no councillor represents the council on any local community organisation – the last one being on the Church Lane Renovation Group, but he resigned from that fifteen months ago.

Only in one area does Draycott Council escape criticism: it has started to get ‘the basics’ right. Agendas and minutes appear on time, supporting documents are listed properly and the finances are transparent. However, that has little to do with the councillors; the responsibility for the ‘basics’ falls to the paid staff, not to the councillors.

All in all, it’s a very, very poor record.
… and we are only comparing Draycott Council to three other councils. Suppose we’d compared it with more…

Resignations, please

Judging by this dismal record, Draycott-in-the-Moors Parish Council has simply turned into an expensive monthly talking-shop, where almost nothing is achieved. Compared to the energy and creativity of surrounding councils, Draycott councillors look tired-out and stuck in their ways.
Even the newer councillors seem unable to shake things up. In fact, during 2020, one councillor only attended four of the council’s ten meetings (even though most were on Zoom)!
Councillors have to do more than just turn up. As well as demonstrating a commitment to the betterment of an area, they have to show leadership and energy.

There is no doubt of course that most of the seven Draycott councillors are nice people – but their record simply shows the job is beyond them. It is time they did the honourable thing, and moved out of the way. They should resign now. The people of this village should not have to wait until the next elections (in 2023) to see improvements in the area.

And… we all know that there are some really energetic people in the village – who would (we think) happily step in to act as co-opted councillors until 2023. If councillors were to resign, it would give these new people the chance to show what they could do, as well as providing a much-needed injection of energy into the area.

***
Want to comment on any of the items on this page?  Just use the comments box – scroll down to near the bottom of this page.
(The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email address, that means you might miss any responses to your comment)

If you’d like an email from us each fortnight alerting you to the latest Draycott & District news, please click the ‘Follow’ button in the top right-hand corner of this webpage

Do you have news or information snippets that you think residents would like to see up on this website? If so – email us

Whose Community-Fund is it?

In the last few weeks, there has been a flurry of applications to the Draycott Community ‘Solar’ Fund. There have been some very interesting ideas, from a range of groups and individuals from our district – DCAT asked for money for upkeep of the village planters, another group asked for money for flower bulbs for a community display etc -, each project asking for a couple of hundred pounds or so.
Then suddenly it was realised that, over the last year, just one organisation alone has been getting thousands of pounds from the fund… in fact, much more than all the rest combined…

Checking over the paperwork, it turns out, over the last few months, that Draycott Council, which has the responsibility of administering the fund in trust for the use of the community, has itself in fact been dipping into it – and has awarded itself over £4000, which amounts to two years worth of the annual income of the fund! This struck some of us as fairly egregious…

Solar Array Fund

The Draycott Community Solar Fund was set up in 2016 by the ‘Lower Newton Farm Solar Array’ firm as a charitable gesture to the surrounding district. Through the fund, the business was passing on some of its profits to the community – as a kind of thank-you to the local people. The idea behind the fund was to specifically help local projects (ones that would ‘benefit the community’).

Lower Newton solar panels
Lower Newton solar farm, seen from Cresswell

Instead of administering it itself though, the firm arranged for around £2000 a year to be transferred to Draycott Council – and it asked Draycott Council to take the responsibility, in trust, for handing out this cash.
Over the years, the annual Community Fund papers reveal that the fund has helped the Church Hall Committee, the Cresswell Community Group, the Draycott Planters Project, the Children’s Ju-Jitsu Centre in Cresswell, the ‘Gaming Potion’ children’s play sessions, the St Margaret’s Bell-Ringers, the local First Responders, and more. The largest amount given out to any one group was £500 and no group has ever had more than one award.

Draycott Church hall interior
Draycott Church Hall’s new curtains were paid for by the Community Fund

The process was straightforward – filling in a simple application form, going through a basic interview with councillors (discussing the merits and potential difficulties of the project, and the possibilities of raising other, matching funding) and later submitting a short report on how it went. Then, last year, things seemed to change.

Late in 2019, the village council found it had under-estimated the cost of installing the speed-signs for its traffic management project.
So, one councillor said, why not take the outstanding amount out of the Community Fund? The idea was nodded through; no councillor opposed the idea. We’ve seen no formal application form, and observed no full discussion on the merits of the application in the records. The fund’s current balance sheet shows that this amount came to around £3000.
(In the end, none of the council’s own money was spent on this speed-signs project).

Since then, the council has used the Community Fund more than once to defray some of its costs – it has earmarked money from the fund for printing its own newsletter (!) and for the cost of a new council noticeboard, the total of which will amount to over £1000.
Application forms should have been submitted, and proper discussions held for these applications – so we have asked for more information to see if these happened, but got no info yet.

Whose money is it anyway?

The councillors are not doing anything ‘wrong’, as such. The wording of the original gift from the Solar Array business is simply that the community must benefit from it, and that the councillors must dispense the money according to their own policies.

When challenged, one councillor said, “our projects DO benefit the community”. (We found that a slightly feeble justification as everything the council does should ‘benefit the community’, even down to stuff like purchases of printer-ink, though we hope they don’t want to take the fund’s cash for that too…).
Another justification that a councillor put forward is that ‘no-one is using the fund’. It is true that, after some busy years, there was a quiet period for the fund in 2020 – but that seems slim justification.
Is the council desperately poor? No. It is funded by the council tax to the tune of £9000 a year, of which £5000 a year is income which it can freely dispose of. In fact the councillors are currently sitting on a very healthy bank balance of almost £20,000.

Draycott VAS speed sign
Draycott speed sign – paid for using Solar Fund money

So, surely, isn’t what the councillors are doing flying in the face of the spirit of a Community-Fund?
The accounts of the fund show that, down the years, the council has awarded local community-based groups around £2500, but has awarded itself the lion’s share of the fund, some £4000.

What to do?

Well, what can one do? One would hope the councillors would be embarrassed, but – unless residents email the council to express their dissatisfaction – the councillors will probably just carry on dipping into the fund for the council’s own projects.
Our big hope is that the council will simply realise that the fund is best spent by community groups, not by itself.

We would hope too that the council now gives the Solar Fund a proper, pro-active publicity campaign (through the local newspapers, and direct publicity mail to local grass-roots organisations) so that more local people realise just what monies are available to them, and then use it.
Also, for the sake of transparency, we would hope that, in future, we could see on the council’s website: the full criteria for awards; and each application form as soon as it is submitted.

***
If you’d like an email from us each fortnight about the latest Draycott & District news, please click the ‘Follow’ button in the top right-hand corner of this webpage

Do you have news or information snippets that you think residents would like to see up on this website? If so – email us

Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.           (The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email address, that means you might miss any responses to your comment)

Council’s new (old) arms logo

Our Draycott village council recently decided it needed a logo for its official letterheads – so it chose to have the ancient arms of the Draycott Family.
But did they get the arms’ details right?

Call to arms
The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that, as of last year, the village council has started using a version of the old arms on its official documents. This design now appears on the council’s official minutes.

Why exactly the councillors felt they needed a logo after one hundred years of existence isn’t recorded, nor do the minutes record why they went for the ancient Draycott Family arms as its logo instead of designing a more modern image.
(The Draycott Family were the ‘lords of the manor’ here for more than 600 years, from Norman times until dying out in 1698.)

Nevertheless, the council did it, and, last autumn, even went one step further.
The council had decided to buy and install a new public waste-bin (for £250) outside the churchyard – and decided (for a little extra cash), to have their ‘new’ logo permanently etched on to it (see pic below) … A little more historical research was done, and finally all the councillors were sure that the logo was designed to their satisfaction.

Bin outside churchyard

But are the arms strictly accurate?

Confusion
It’s very easy to get confused in heraldry matters. Everything in it is defined down to the very tiniest twist of a tail. As we wrote about in a previous article, even the sign on the Draycott Arms pub is wrong in a tiny one of its details.
The council learnt from the pub’s mistake; the colours are now all correct. The shape of the cross has also been slightly changed from the council’s earlier version – in the summer 2020 version, it was a more of a ‘cross urdee’ (in heraldic terms), which is not the Draycott Family arms’ type of cross.

Patonce
But is the cross on the new logo right, even after this correction?
According to heraldry, the Draycotts’ cross is a ‘cross patonce’, in which the ends of the cross splay out in three extended prongs (looking somewhat ‘like an animal’s paw’). But the current council version has more ‘nippled’ or ‘budded’ ends, which you might find on a ‘cross bottonnée’.
If you’re interested, the Heralds Net website has a guide to all the many different types of cross.

The best place to look for evidence of what the cross really looks like is probably St Margaret’s Church, of which the Draycotts were patrons for 500 years. You’ll see patonces all over it, from the patonce cross over the porch to the patonces on gravestones (see photos below). The patonce is even more popular in Cresswell at St Mary’s churchyard, where many of the older gravestones show it.

  • Patonce cross surmounting St Mary Church
  • Patonce cross on gravestone at St Mary's

But the most authentic Draycott patonces are to be found on the tombs of the medieval Draycotts, in a side-chapel at St Margaret’s, the so-called ‘Draycott Chapel’. After all, here the history of the Draycott Family is preciously guarded; generations of Draycotts are buried here, from the 1200s right up to the late 1600s.
In fact though, the medieval sculptors could be a bit sloppy, so the shapes of the crosses can vary a little – but the fact is that, generally, the Draycott tombs favour the fully splayed ends of the cross.


So – what’s the verdict? Well, in the long run, the verdict is that the council has deviated, but only slightly, from what we might call the ‘true’ patonce cross: the arms of the council’s cross are fatter than those on the tombs, and the council has also underplayed the splayed effect at the ends.
(Curiously enough, the Draycott Arms Pub sign is more accurate in this particular regard).

Does it matter?
The truth is though – even after all this deep investigation – that it doesn’t really matter (except to a few nerds like us…) what the logo looks like.
The basic fact is that the council, just like the pub, can have any version it likes, with any colours and shapes it likes. Until the council actually needs to ‘adopt arms’ formally, an exact version is not a statutory or legal matter.
In our opinion, the logo is nice & bright, fairly recognisable to most local people, and has a deep connection with the village… and is accurate to the Draycott Family arms to, er, 99%!

So … what does everyone think of the new logo?
Do they like it?
Or would they have preferred a more modern or original design to represent the council?

***
Want to comment on anything on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.           (The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email address, that means you might miss any responses to your comment)

If you’d like an email from us each fortnight about the latest Draycott & District news, please click the ‘Follow’ button in the top right-hand corner of this webpage

Do you have news or information snippets that you think residents would like to see up on this website? If so – email us

NEWS: Covid hotspot / green belt puzzle / Rev writes book / odd wreaths

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors & District in mid-November 2020
In this post we have news of…: Draycott’s Covid problems / Rev Whittaker new book / wreaths on junction? / planning in green belt….

For news of what’s on in our area at this time, please click here
_ _ _
In a Covid hotspot

As we all should know, this month our neighbourhood suddenly found itself to be a Covid hotspot. Blythe Bridge And District – which includes us in Draycott – hit the news as being the worst-hit area in all North Staffordshire, with infection rates double the national average. How this little district managed to become such a Covid problem is unclear.

Of course, like all statistics, these figures are actually a little misleading, because they represent only a snapshot of a moment in time, and current deaths are not as high as in May, so we shouldn’t panic: and, what’s more, this week, thanks to lockdown, the figures are dropping.
But — it’s a definite warning to us. We surely need to stick to the guidelines as best as we can to try to force the figures down or we could be a hotspot for a long time.
(For the big picture, see BBC News Covid Figures Updates).

At the same time, there is one big moral problem in front of us: should we report neighbours who break the rules?
Many people believe we should, and Moorlands Police alone are currently receiving around 400 calls a week from dutiful citizens reporting breaches.
But for others, it feels very uncomfortable to be reporting on neighbours.
What do you think? Use our comments box at the bottom of this page if you have thoughts.

Meanwhile, if you observe a breach and you feel you need to report it, the police ask you not to call 101, but use their online Covid Rules-Breaking reporting form.
_ _ _
Wreaths in odd places

We’ve had a couple of emails asking us about what is going on with the Remembrance wreaths on Draycott crossroads. Wreaths from Staffs County and Draycott Council have been tied to the bench there. It does seem almost disrespectful just to leave them on a road junction.

The question then is: why haven’t the wreaths been laid at St Margaret’s Church, where the village war memorial is, or by the war graves in Cresswell churchyard?

The answer is, apparently, that the rather lonely small tree at that spot is Draycott Council’s effort at a memorial to those lost in the Great War. The tree was the village council’s contribution to a national project back in 2014 to remember the war’s 100th anniversary. (Some of us thought that, as part of a national project, this tree was, er, a bit underwhelming… but there you go).
In fact, the village council has only half-completed the project; six years later, the plaque that was supposed to explain the tree’s presence has still not been commissioned, which seems very slack.

Be that as it may, our personal feeling is that wreathes should be laid at a ‘sacred space’, not at a road junction. What was the British Legion’s view, we wonder?
_ _ _
Brian’s book

Many of us will remember the Reverend Brian Whittaker (see pic right) with affection. He was rector at St Margaret’s for fifteen years up to 2005, and also a councillor for this area. In fact he still performs occasional duties at the church even though he is now retired.

He has now become a published author with a book called ‘Jesus and The Gentiles’, in which Brian wants to refute the idea that Jesus was aiming his preaching primarily to Jews, and only secondly to Gentiles (Gentiles are anyone who is not Jewish). Such a description makes it sound a little heavy on theology, but we’re told that it is in fact very readable.
At just £1, it might make a nice Xmas stocking-filler for a Christian friend…
_ _ _
Green belt paradox

There is more green belt in Draycott-Cresswell-Totmonslow than people think – and it was a green belt issue in Totmonslow that caused a planning puzzle earlier this month.

At a property there, the owner (who is the local councillor, Mark Deaville) put in an application for a kitchen extension. As ‘NPPF Green Belt’ rules apply to this part of Totmonslow, it probably wouldn’t have been passed – but as the applicant pointed out, if he built a much larger extension, that that would be allowed (under ‘General Permitted Development Order’ rules)…! Very paradoxical.
So, the planning committee at Staffs Moorlands decided to let Mr Deaville have the smaller extension, even though it was ‘against the NPPF rules’, as that would be less intrusive than any potential large extension.
Strange but true!

***
If you’d like an email from us each fortnight about the latest Draycott & District news, please click the ‘Follow’ button in the top right-hand corner of this webpage

Do you have news or information snippets that you think residents would like to see up on this website? If so – email us

Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.           (The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email address, that means you might miss any responses to your comment)

NEWS: new speed limits / Silver / scary leaflet / sport debut / cricket

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors in late July 2020
In this post we have news of…: new speed limits / missing Silver / a scare-mongering leaflet / Jordan’s league debut / cricket is back…

_ _
New speed limits

It looks likely that new speed limits will soon be brought in for the centre of the village. The new limits will apply in central Draycott, in anticipation of a proposed new roundabout there.

Proposed roundabout diagram

Proposed roundabout diagram (detail)

The limit will be reduced from 40mph to 30mph along two stretches: from (roughly) Ford’s (Fayre) Field to Manor Farm; and along Cresswell Lane, from the Draycott junction to (roughly) the Sports Centre.

Annoyingly, at first Highways left residents hardly any time for a public consultation period, so they were forced to extend it by three weeks (from late June to July 14th).
However, very oddly – despite being given this extension and all the public interest -, when our village council met on July 13th, it still did not come up with a formal response to the plans. It’s not clear why not.
(It’s not the first time the village council have failed to put in responses to infrastructure consultations – and you do have to wonder at that kind of record…)

It also seems a bit strange that the Highways Department wants to do this now, because there are still no definite dates for the construction of this particular roundabout – the very reason for the new speed limits!
But anyway, for many residents, sick of the speeding along Uttoxeter Road, it will be good news that there will likely now be new limits.

The changes, when they come in, will follow another speed-limit change in the village – at the west end, where the dual carriageway is now a 40mph zone after having been a 60mph zone up until the New Year. (It was changed to accommodate the new Blythe Fields housing estate there).

_ _
Jordan gets his boots on

The local paper, the Cheadle&Tean Times, has been following the career of Jordan Brown, the Cresswell lad who is steadily going up the professional football ladder. After going through the Stoke City Academy, getting taken on at Derby County, playing in their reserves and in European tournaments, the latest good news that the paper reports is that Jordan has now made his debut in Derby’s first side, in a full Football League match. He came on as a substitute in Derby’s encounter at West Brom earlier this month.
Well done Jordan…

It’s interesting to think that Jordan was taken on at Derby when Frank Lampard was manager there – because if there is one good opinion worth having in football, it’s Frank’s!

_ _
Cricket is back

More sport – we have the return of cricket to the Creswell ground of Blythe CC. (The coronavirus crisis meant that the start of the season, which was due in mid-April, had to be suspended.)

Blythe Cricket Club ground

The Blythe CC ground has spectacular views

This will be a strange season, as all sorts of social distancing rules will apply (except for wicket-keepers and slips); there will be no promotion or relegation; and overseas players, who bring so much excitement to the games, are not permitted.
The good thing is that spectators are allowed at the Cresswell ground for the matches, so long as they spread out. Even the bar is open, even if you can’t hang about inside it.

The first home game for the First XI, at the Cresswell ground, is on Saturday July 25th. See our What’s On page for other fixtures.

_ _
Scary …

Many of us have received a strange leaflet, called CV19 Facts Not Fear, through our letterboxes. It’s printed by an anonymous local supporter of Vigiliae, which is a small conspiracy-theory group associated with David Icke. (Mr Icke was recently banned from Facebook for publishing “health misinformation that could cause physical harm”, and he also believes that reptilian beings have invaded the earth).
Mostly Vigiliae has been pushing the wild idea that mobile phone masts give you cancer, but now it has the pandemic in its sights. Vigiliae's Covid 19 leafletThis leaflet outlines ten reasons why we should disbelieve the government and health authorities over Covid, and it encourages us to defy the coronavirus guidelines and rules. It even suggests that any vaccine developed in the next few months is likely to cause cancers…

Now, as any reader of this website will know, we do believe in healthy questioning of the authorities, but this is extreme and dangerous stuff.
We suggest that the best thing the person who delivered it should do is ask to speak at the next village council meeting and put across their views in open debate. The village council has been putting out community health messages over this year, so it is a good forum for such a debate.
And, if they want to debate, we are ready for them!

_ _
Looking for Silver

Finally, we don’t usually do lost & found, because the village Facebook page does it better, but there is one case that is worrying.
Silver the cat
Silver, a grey-haired one-eyed housecat, was apparently taken from her home and then dumped somewhere in Draycott. This was at the beginning of July.
Usually cats are sighted eventually – but not this time.
Do you have any news? Owner Tim would like to know – on 07505 041712.

***
Want to comment on any of the items on this page?  Just use the comments box – scroll down to near the bottom of this page.
(The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email address, that means you might miss any responses to your comment)

NEWS of: church funds / Totmonslow housing / police Facebook / footpaths

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors in early August 2019
In this post we have news of…: parish council doze through Totmonslow development / report those footpaths / police join Facebook / fayre funds for church… 
(NB – There are also dozens of events coming up soon in our locality – including a Sausage & Cider Festival…  Check out the Events page)

If you’d like an email from us each fortnight about the latest Draycott & Cresswell & District news, please click the ‘Follow’ button in the top right-hand corner of this webpage
For daily updates about life in our district, keep checking the village Facebook page

_ _ _
Village council lack of action

The recent news that a development for five houses at Totmonslow has finally got planning permission launched a surprising discussion at the last Draycott parish council meeting.
Pete Wilkinson, one of our newly elected district councillors, had dropped in to observe the meeting. He expressed his deep unhappiness with the Totmonslow news, saying that the new cul-de-sac which will be built for the development is too dangerous: the cul-de-sac will exit straight onto the main Draycott-Tean road, too close to the brow of the hill for Mr Wilkinson’s liking. In fact he said accidents would be the inevitable result.

He is not the only one who feels this way. Among the official objections to the original proposal were comments from half-a-dozen residents and from Checkley Parish Council too (even through the development is inside Draycott-in-the-Moors area, and only borders on Checkley’s area).

Then Mr Wilkinson asked how Draycott Council had responded.
Silence.
It turned out that, though our village council were aware of the application, and its various updates, even discussing the issue a year ago, they had just … forgotten to make a response.
So what we see here is that the neighbouring parish council and a number of local residents had managed to put in official responses, but our own council, whom we depend on, had failed to.

It seems to us that this really is not good enough. Village councils should be there in the front-line, battling away on issues that affect the community, not dozing on the sidelines. Whether they agreed with the Totmonslow proposal or opposed it, their first duty was to make some sort of response. And they failed.
Ad this is not the first time (see Council’s dismal record).
So, again, we would ask Draycott Council to … just please wake up.

_ _ _
Watching the detectives

According to surveys, the main public issue that bothers small communities like ours is crime. This is quite surprising, as small districts don’t usually suffer a lot of crime.

Moorlands Police logo
Our local Moorlands police are aware of this concern; and put on monthly meet-the-PCSO sessions at both Blythe Bridge and Tean to try to reassure residents.
But they have now gone a step further and last month launched their own Facebook page. It will list traffic reports, news of convictions & arrests, diary dates for consultation events and so on.

In one way, this doesn’t seem like a big contribution to crime-fighting – but it is part of the drive by local police to publicise what they do, in order to make us feel safer.

But, what do you think of this latest move by Moorlands Police? Is it just a gesture, or a useful initiative? Use the comments box on this webpage to express your thoughts.

_ _ _
Hurrah for the fayre

The final receipts are in for the annual Draycott Fayre, which was held just a few weeks ago. Once all costs are taken out, the fayre raised a handsome £4000-plus for the parish church fund. St Margaret’s is nearly 800 years old, and, without such donations, would simply start to crumble.

In fact, the last annual report for the church tells us that it spent a staggering £50,000 in the twelve-month on maintenance (which admittedly did include major roof repairs). Fortunately, some grants had become available, and there were donations of £12,000 from local well-wishers, but you can see how money can get swallowed up very quickly.
(Surprisingly, this current annual report for the church has not been made available online, even though previous reports have been. A copy is available in the church itself though).

So, if you went to the fayre (see highlights below), you can have the satisfaction of knowing that a great heritage & community asset is safe for another year, thanks to your support…

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By the way, an even better series of photos of the day than the ones above has been created by Neil Archibald, and is available online for all to enjoy – check out the Draycott 2019 Fayre Album

_ _ _
Report blocked paths a new way

Most footpaths in Draycott-in-the-Moors are maintained very well (though there are some problems in Cresswell where overgrown and blocked paths continue to be a long-standing and thorny issue).

It has been very frustrating trying to report problem issues over the last few years. Staffordshire County Council (who are responsible for path maintenance) have set up easy online ways of reporting potholes, flytipping, problems with bins etc – but not an online way to report footpath problems.
Until now.

Near NewHouse track

A blocked footpath

At last, you can report local footpath and bridleway problems on a custiomised webpage, thanks to a newly set-up and simple online process.
Click on Staffs Public Rights Of Way Issues.
Having created your online account, you can also track the issues you have reported (to make sure they do get fixed); and also can see matters reported by others.

Lots more people are walking for health – and our district has plenty of good countryside footpath routes (see some examples by clicking here and here) – so let’s make it as easy as we can for us all to keep walking.

***
Want to comment on any of the items on this page?  Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.
(The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email address, that means you might miss any responses to your comment)

If you’d like an email from us each fortnight alerting you to the latest Draycott & District news, please click the ‘Follow’ button in the top right-hand corner of this webpage

Do you have news or information snippets that you think residents would like to see up on this website? If so – email us