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

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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!

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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.
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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.
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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…!)

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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.

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NEWS: volunteer awards / new MP…? / Facebook changes

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors & District in early July 2021
In this post we have news of…: success at volunteer awards / new parliamentary constituency for us / changes to village facebook page.

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

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Take a bow!

The recent Staffordshire Moorlands Star Volunteering Awards ceremony saw a bunch of honours for residents of this locality. In fact, if there had been an award for the village to get the most mentions, Draycott would have had it!

Top recognition should go to the Draycott Covid Support Group, which picked up the award for the New Volunteer-Group of The Year. Led by Kathleen Ferneyhough and her trusty aide Denise Wheat, the group has been a beacon of light in the last twelve months. The group’s members (about forty in all) helped out their neighbours by running errands, walking dogs, giving emotional support and more. What was also very impressive was the way that they also built a system to preserve privacy for all. Extremely well deserved.

Draycott knight

It was also very good indeed to see that John Clarke, the go-to man in Draycott for many years, got a commendation in the Lifetime Achievement section. You can see his story by clicking here. It seems odd to have given John a ‘lifetime’ award as he is not old by any means (!), and continues on strongly. Right now he’s enmeshed in organising the Draycott Summer Fayre (booked for late August) – so if you can help, please contact him.

Last but never least, there was a commendation in the Young Volunteer of The Year category for young Leo Myatt, the ‘knight of Draycott’ (see pic right). Most of us have seen him on his frequent strolls around the village in his helmet & tunic; and he even got a touch of fame when he even had his story covered in The Sun newspaper. As the nomination said, the reason for his inclusion was not so much his achievements as his ability to constantly be bringing a smile to the community in gloomy times.
Nice to see too that our local library, at Blythe Bridge, was also in the awards – see the details of that by clicking here.

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Getting friendly – with Barlaston, Trentham and Meir

The government is on a drive to reduce the number of parliamentary constituencies, which means many constituencies will be getting a new shape. It has just published its recommendations for these new shapes.
Although everyone thought we’d be moved into the Staffs Moorlands constituency to be with Cheadle and Leek, what the Boundary Commission would actually like to see is that when (if?) Draycott moves out of the Stone constituency, it goes into what is virtually a new one, where the village will be joined up with Barlaston, Trentham, Blythe Bridge, Fulford, Meir and bits of south Longton.
(At district council level though, we would still stay under Staffordshire Moorlands).

The shape of the potential new constituency

The new constituency (see map) is being called ‘Stoke South’ which is a bit odd, as most of it is rural and in Stafford Borough, with the only Stoke bits being in the bump at the top of it. (see map).
On paper, the seat would be a Conservative hold, though in some years veering toward marginal.

We quite like the idea. It’s always fun to be in a seat that is slightly marginal, because the MP has to work hard for you (unlike the current one!) in order to get your vote, and so your vote really does matter.

However, not everyone will be happy with the recommendation, so the Boundary Commission is inviting you to comment – click here for how to do that. The consultation ends on August 2nd.

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Facebook’s shenanigan

You may have noticed that the village Facebook page has recently changed its status to ‘private’. Thus means that, unless you are signed up to the page, you can’t see its discussions.
Some ex-Draycottians living abroad aren’t happy with that. As one told us, they liked being able to drop in on the page occasionally to see the gossip. (The reason they give for not actually signing up to the page is that you have to be registered with Facebook first, and there are too many worries for them about the way that Facebook treats privacy concerns, especially abroad.)

However, we’re told that the change to private was slightly forced on the page’s administrators.
In a recent, universal change, Facebook altered the rules on group-pages such as Draycott’s so that even non-members can post. Well, our administrators felt that was unfair, and so that left them with only the one alternative – to go private.
From now on, if you do want to join in the group, first you must have registered with Facebook, and then you must click the Join button on the group-page itself.

***
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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.

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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.

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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?

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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 three elections (including one bye-election), 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…

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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

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Sport in go-mode!

For such a small area, Draycott & district is blessed with lots of sport – from fishing to ju-jitsu and cricket, and even horse-racing.
And it seems everyone is getting back into activity mode following the past year of lockdowns.

Ju-jitsu moves

Good news for lovers of martial arts is that Tara Burndred’s award-winning Tatsu Dojo has completed its successful move to Draycott Sports Centre, where the conversion of two squash courts into a Ju Jitsu room is now an excellent new facility.

Ju jitsu room at Draycott Sports Centre

As you’ll know, Tara and her team were formerly in a building on the Blythe Business Park, just 200 yards from the Sports Centre, but decided to decamp up the road. There was a possibility that the forthcoming new access road into the park might go through their old building – so it was a wise move in more ways than one!

Compliments must also go to Draycott Sports & Fitness Centre which is showing how flexible it can be, and responsive to local needs. (Believe it or not, there are over sixty separate sessions at the centre that one can currently book for, from spin-cycling and fitness classes right though to tennis training.)

Get racing!

The news that a horse being trained in this area had won a race at Uttoxeter Racecourse this month was quite a surprise to some people. Where are these stables?, they wondered.
Well, go to the junction of Cresswell and Saverley Green, and there you will find the Leavy Stables, which specialises in horses owned by consortia of ‘ordinary’ punters. The National Hunt trainer Barry Leavy is the one who puts the horses through their paces; Cresswellians often see the horses go through their ‘gallops’ across the fields.

Inishbiggle with owner Georgina Davies

Incidentally, the winning horse we are talking about was Inishbiggle, but you won’t have made much money if you’d bet on him. He was the red-hot favourite, so you could only get odds of a measly 2/9!

Cricket for all

The Blythe CC First XI (based in Cresswell) may not have made a great start to the season, but a cricket club is not just about the first team or the second team. If you look at the club’s fixture list, you’ll see it also has a roster of junior teams, from under-8s upwards.

Blythe Cricket Club ground
The Blythe CC ground has spectacular views

What the club doesn’t have (at the moment) is an all-female team. This is partly because cricket is one of the few sports where males and females can play alongside each other as equals; the rules say a woman could play in the first team if she were picked. Blythe already run a mixed adult men-and-women session.
Nevertheless, the club recognises that girls new to the game may feel more comfortable in an all-female situation, which is why there are special girls-only training sessions on Fridays between 6pm -8pm for girls aged under-9 and girls aged under-11.

It’s great that the club is making really efforts to make space to get youngsters into the game. A list of ‘open-sessions’ where youngsters (of both sexes) can just come along is available on application to club officials.

Just watch

Finally, it’s great to know that spectators are welcome again at outdoor sports activities. There’s nothing like watching a game of cricket on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Blythe CC’s Cresswell ground!

Even the bowls club which plays on the green at the Cresswell business park, Checkley Outdoor, welcomes visitors, though, as secretary Sue Stepek told us: “…we’re don’t really get big crowds…”!!

As you’d expect though, social-distancing is requested at all venues, even after lockdown restrictions are fully relaxed at the end of June.

Links to more sporting opportunities in this district can be found in the sport section of our Local Organisations page

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Second estate for Draycott

It now looks likely that work in Draycott on a second large housing estate – Blythe Vale (or ‘Blythe Fields 2’ if you like) – will start next year. St Modwen, the developers building the two estates, say the new site will hold around 200 homes, making it almost twice as big as their current site.
When the two combined sites are finished, the population of main Draycott will jump by a huge fifty per cent… and when added to the forthcoming planned estate in Cresswell means that 600 new homes are about to appear in our small district.

The patch of blue is the Blythe Fields estate, currently being built. The patch of red is the proposed new Blythe Vale estate. There is no entry-exit from the red area except through the blue area

There is still a process to go through of course. This is the schedule:
1 – Community consultation by St Modwen (this took place in the first fortnight of May)
2 – a Statement of Community Engagement will be issued by St Modwen (a summation of the consultation comments & responses)
3 – St Modwen submits a planning application (to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council)
4 – Staffs Moorlands asks for comments
5 – Staffs Moorlands Council Planning Committee considers the application
6 – if approved, work starts on the new estate in 2022

Can it be stopped? Tough.
Any community opposition faces massive obstacles – basic permission for development on this site was granted decades ago; developers are being backed by the government to build as much as they can; Staffs Moorlands has such a slack housing plan that it is regularly approving huge developments like this; and our local Draycott Village Council has barely made a squeak of protest to such large plans over the last ten years, making it virtually complicit.
(There is likely also even more development to come after this, as forthcoming phases, which will stretch construction right along to Cresswell, are already earmarked).

Green credentials

St Modwen, as befits a huge company, have done a very professional job in its presentations so far, and what they are really stressing is how ‘green’ and people-friendly their latest proposal is.

The proposed new estate – the green circles are trees. The bottom right corner is where the playground and orchard will go. The grey line at the bottom is the A50, but there is no access to it

As you can see from the diagram (above), there will be trees everywhere, with even a plantation-orchard in the bottom south-east corner. St Modwen claim that there will be “maximised biodiversity on the site”.
Although there is no shop or community centre, there are open spaces galore, jogging routes, and even a children’s play area (these spaces are ‘public’, so anyone from the wider Draycott community can use them as well).
A new, extensive drainage system underlines the estate’s ‘sustainability’.

“Nothing can be done”

A few of us have been doing our best to try to ensure that the community’s voice is heard concerning these proposals despite of the weight of the powers before us. Which is why it was very disappointing to hear Draycott Council’s view, expressed during its meeting on May 4th. The councillors simply reiterated the same old comment: “there’s nothing we can do”. No ideas, no insights, no leadership, no action plan – just the same empty words that we hear too much from politicians. They looked completely out of their depth. (Slightly oddly, the longest speech was about events in the village thirty years ago…).

It’s true that, because the council and the community have failed to act in the past, the development itself is probably a done-deal, but – of course some action can be taken. It is just nonsense to say that nothing can be done…

If the councillors, working with the community, could show some energy and drive, they could at least make a bid for community partnerships in the way that the new spaces are run. Traffic management is also an issue – all 350 homes will be using the same exit-entry point onto Uttoxeter Rd. Also, ensuring sufficient low-income housing is in the mix is another urgent area of attention.
Those who like to despair will say such that any attempts will yield nothing – but… we shouldn’t just roll over & die … should we?

*Footnote
By an odd alignment of council boundaries, most (not all) of the new development will fall into Forsbrook Council’s planning area. However, as the ‘protector’ of Draycott at large, Draycott Council’s views must be given full weight by the planning authority and the developer.

***
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.
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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

NEWS: flood-zones / new estate / rail-path news / fines for dog-mess

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors & District in late-April 2021
In this post we have news of…: Draycott flood zones / old railway path plans / £100 fines for dog-mess / Totmonslow homes nearly sold out.

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

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High water Draycott

It has come as quite a shock to learn that two road locations in the middle of Draycott have recently become classed – officially – as flood zones.
The government map (see below) now lists the spots (in dark blue): one on Uttoxeter Road off Fords Field and one outside The Old Rectory in Cheadle Road.
People have been jokingly talking about the Uttoxeter Road flooding issue as ‘Draycott Lake’ for some time now, but we all thought it was temporary or freak stuff. Well, it appears not.

In a talk to our village council last month, Paula Lees, Staffordshire’s Community Highways Engagement Officer, said that Highways are even considering putting up flood warning signs in these areas.

Apparently, these flooding incidents are not simply down to the fact that gullies are not being cleared properly. While that has contributed to the problems (and it’s possible that there may also be blockages stuck in the system, causing damming effects in heavy rain), Ms Lees said that some of the problems are man-made – and the community has to sort those out for itself.

So, it’s fairly clear (to us) what must happen: Draycott Council must form a steering group, with both councillors and expertise from the community on it, and sort the issues out.

Draycott Council has a truly dismal record of achievement over the last twelve months (see our article – Draycott Council’s 2020 – Councillors Should Resign), so maybe this is a chance for the councillors to get their collective finger out and actually do something significant.

Flash flooding Cheadle Road draycott
Flooding in Cheadle Road Draycott in 2019

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Activity plan for (some of) the railway path

It is interesting to see that Staffordshire Moorlands Council have included our old-railway path in their new Green Infrastructure Plan. (The old railway line ran from Cresswell to Totmonslow to Cheadle but finally closed in the 1970s, and is now a ‘greenway’ path.)

The old-railway path follows the middle bottom black line

As you can see from the map (above), the council is drawing up plans to develop bridleways, walking and even play areas along the northern part of the old line. But… this implies it only appears to have definite plans for the Cheadle to Huntley/Draycott-Cross stretch, and nothing for the Totmonslow to Cresswell stretch.

However, it is fair to say that the Totmonslow to Cresswell stretch does have outstanding issues, including problems over access.
As the Friends Of The Cresswell-Cheadle Rail Path have been finding out, the long-term future of the Totmonslow to Cresswell stretch of the path is, sadly, in doubt.

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New fines for careless dog owners

One of the most impressive changes in local public behaviour over the last ten years is the way that so many people now collect up their dogs’ mess on public pavements. Many local dog-owners now take out plastic bags with them routinely.

Many of us will remember the stencillings (see pic below) that local children painted on our pavements a decade ago – maybe it was these images that changed local people’s attitudes. It would be good to think so!

However, according to posts on the Draycott Facebook page, there are still some dog-owners who don’t clear up after their pets. (Dog faeces is not only unsightly and can be accidentally carried into the home on shoes, but can affect children if they touch traces of it and later rub their eyes).

Apparently, this is why Staffordshire Moorlands Council recently introduced a ‘Public Space Protection Order’ across the region – which could mean a £100 fixed-penalty for offenders who get caught. Even children in charge of a dog can be fined, though, legally, the debt would become the responsibility of the parent/carer.

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Sold out bungalows

Finally, if you were hoping to buy a house locally after lockdown, the bad news is that the five homes being built on the ‘Valley View’ plot at Totmonslow are virtually sold out – without a brick even being laid!

The site should be an interesting one when it is eventually finished. The homes are being constructed by Future Homes Developments, who describe themselves as “eco developers”, using new types of concrete.
We looked on their website for news of when the development should be finished, but unfortunately the website is badly out of date, so there was no information.

***
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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.

***
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NEWS: Covid news / H Hartley RIP / no July fayre / Blythe Colours history

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors & District in late-March 2021
In this post we have news of…: Covid good news / Harold Hartley – rags to riches / fayre postponement / new history of Blythe Colours.

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

_ _ _
Light appears at the end of the Covid tunnel

Could this week have marked the end of the Covid pandemic – at least, so far as Draycott is concerned?
The latest figures from the government reveal that – for the first time – there were fewer than three new cases in one week in our district. This means that, in official language, Covid has finally been ‘suppressed’ in our locality.

Official government map for March 28th. The Draycott-Caverswall-Forsbrook district is marked in white, meaning Covid is ‘suppressed’ here

This is amazingly good news and cause for a bit of celebration (if it were allowed!).
Of course, everyone knows that Covid is not going to go away quietly, and that new ‘variant’ strains are coming along, which current vaccines may not be able to handle. So, yes, we have to be watchful for some time to come.
But – it’s still good news!

_ _ _
From rags to riches

The recent death of Harold Hartley (see pic right), who lived in and around Draycott nearly all his adult life, reminds us again of that generation of working-class entrepreneurs who hauled themselves up from poverty to success.

Born in 1933, Harold remembered picking coal as a child in Stoke. After leaving school he started up scrapping vehicles (on the side of the road!), which eventually turned into a small-time business when he took a yard at Boundary (which is just beyond Draycott Cross). In those days, he and his young family didn’t even have a water supply.
As we all know, he then went on to build a large scrap and skip business in premises at New Haden (also just beyond Draycott Cross).

But surely one of his proudest days must have been when he moved into The Old Rectory, the large house down the green lane from St Margaret’s Church.

Draycott’s Old Rectory sometime between the wars

This eighteenth-century listed building (which has the remains of an ancient moat) had been home to the church’s vicars until the 1960s, when the church could no longer afford to keep it up. What a day that must have been for him – him, a working class lad, moving into the village’s ‘manor-house’!

Especially in later years, Harold did not take much of a role in the life of the village, but everyone knew his name; and his funeral at St Margaret’s on March 26th was, though it was a private family affair, very well attended indeed.
For more about Harold’s story, click here.
To leave your condolences, click here.

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September fayre?

Despite the good news about Covid in this district, no one is taking anything for granted, and the organisers of the annual Draycott Summer Fayre have decided there is no safe prospect of holding the event on its usual date in mid-July.
However, the main organiser, John Clarke, said: “We are hoping that it will be possible to organise an event in lieu of the summer fayre in the autumn -provisionally the weekend of 18th/19th September.”
Here’s hoping.

_ _ _
The history of Blythe Colours, told in five minutes

Another event that has had to be cancelled is the Blythe Colour Works 100th Anniversary Celebration. This decision was massively disappointing for the organisers.

Blythe Colours Exhibition poster

However, they were determined not to let the historical research go to waste; and a little video has been put together telling the the story of the famous Cresswell factory. The video is a five-minute talk by one of the experts on all aspects of the colour works, Ivan Wozniak, and is punctuated by some fascinating old photographs. It’s definitely worth five minutes of your time!
To see the video, click on this link

***
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NEWS: milestone / DCAT / houses for sale / outdoor spinning

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors & District in mid-March 2021
In this post we have news of…: listed milestone repaired / new local action group / outdoor gym! / speciality houses for sale.

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

_ _ _
Heritage monument repair

It’s not always realised, but a lot of those old cast-iron mileposts you see around the Moorlands are actually ‘listed’ monuments. The parish of Draycott-in-the-Moors has a dozen certified heritage structures, and the milepost opposite the entry to Breach Lane in Totomonslow is one of them.
Which is why it was a matter of concern to see it falling to one side.

Totmonslow milestone in 2020

This particular milepost has been in place for 200 years, so maybe it was not surprising that it was starting to totter. It is on the side of a bank too, so it’s possible the heavy rains of this last winter were making the ground under it very soft.

Totmonslow milepost 2021

A conscientious resident reported the issue to the clerk of the village council, who passed the matter on to the heritage department of the county council. You might not believe this – but the repairs were completed less than a month later! Now all is well again. So, for once, the system worked, and it worked very well.

(Just a little footnote: the parish has three milestones altogether, the others being on Cresswell Lane and on the Hilderstone road. Strangely, only the Totmonslow one is deemed to be of heritage importance. No one is sure why).

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New action group

Things have been very tough over the last twelve months, as we all know, but at least the year 2021 is a chance for new beginnings. Cross fingers.

Here in Draycott, spring has brought not just daffodils but the new DCAT (Draycott, Cresswell And Totmonslow) Community Action Group. A trio of active local people (who already manage the village Facebook group) – Lee Warburton, Louise Parks & Bev Reardon – have started the ball rolling.
The idea is to make a concentrated effort to gather the views & ideas of residents, and drive those ideas forward. The next step is formalise how this DCAT group will work. Watch this space!

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Get spinning

As we all know, the first step back to normality (we hope) comes soon, on March 29th, when some Covid rules will be relaxed (though only a few, admittedly).
One organisation that has thought this through is the Draycott Sports & Fitness Centre, where some activities are set to return.

One activity that they have announced is one that has never been tried before – outdoor spinning! Yes, the static bikes used for spinning will be hauled outside, and participants will do what they do out in the fresh air. That makes the whole thing Covid-permissible.
So, if all those hundreds of Peloton adverts on the TV have inspired you, but you don’t have a bike of your own, then here’s your chance to have a go!

First session is on 31st March – but do book early. Bikes are limited. /

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Got half-a-million to spare?

A couple of houses have come up for sale in the district, and both offer quite a lot of privacy (if you like that sort of thing).
The Old Cart Shed, as it’s called (see pic below), is one of the results of the renovations at old Totmonslow Farm, where the old barns were marked for demolition a couple of years ago. And (you guessed it), this new house is on the site of the old structures.
It’s a classy new-build with field-views, definitely not your standard red-brick. Trouble is: your pockets will need to be deep, as it is on the market for over £500,000.

At the other end of the district, at Blythe Vale, hidden away up Woodlands Lane, you’ll find a bungalow for £300,000. (For an extra £50,000, they’ll throw in a plot of empty land too). It’s next to one of the service entries to the new Blythe Fields Estate, so you could probably use the facilities on the estate (playgrounds etc) if you wanted to.


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