NEWS of: court case / path blocked / calendar / community fund

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors & District in mid October 2021
In this post we have news of…: man convicted of criminal driving / a community calendar / footpath obstructed / decision on ‘Solar’ community fund

For news of a song-writers’ concert and other events in our area, please go to our What’s On page

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Criminal driving

There are, thankfully, very few serious road accidents in Draycott, but one of them, back in early 2019, was a very bad one, resulting in the death of a fifty-year old man.
Last month, a jury also decided that it had been a case of criminal carelessness – and the man causing the accident, Usman Farooq, from Middleport in Stoke, has been convicted of causing death by dangerous driving.
It seems that Mr Farooq, in a rush, had cut across the dual carriageway near the Chandni Cottage restaurant and crashed with a motorbike. The man on the motorbike, Martin Barker, died in hospital of his injuries.

The incident reminds us that cars are lethal weapons; there can never be a good reason to dash about in one.

And yet another accident on the dual carriageway A few weeks ago, this car and its driver came off the road. No one was hurt
Draycott calendar (pic: Bev Reardon)

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Local calendar published

It’s good to see that the first-ever Cresswell, Draycott & Totmonslow Community Calendar will be on sale in time for Christmas.

Organised by community activist Bev Reardon, there was, at first, a photo-competition to gather in people’s views of the district (well done to Ritchie Bellis, whose effort was awarded first prize!), and from it, the twelve pictures were selected. Now twelve sponsors have also come forward, so printing has been secured. There’s even enough in the pot to print some Christmas cards.

Soon you should get a leaflet through your letterbox with all the details of how to buy one (just £6, folks!) – or, keep an eye on the village Facebook page for updates.
Any profits from the project will be used for beautification initiatives in the village – Bev welcomes any suggestions.

It’s really great to see a proper community project like this. Let’s hope it becomes an annual event…

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Blythe Colours Memories

Talking of community projects, anyone who worked at the old Blythe Colours Factory in Cresswell, or whose family did, is invited to a memories session at Cheadle Library on Friday November 12th (from 9am to 1pm).
Visitors are encouraged to bring in photos or other memorabilia of their time at the works.

This is going to be a well-organised event, with one-to-one recording available, and former Colours employees on hand to make notes of people’s memories.
If you feel you can contribute, just drop in – or book a one-to-one session by phoning Cheadle Library.

Visit of Stoke Lord Mayor Cllr Doug Brown JP and the Lady Mayoress, 1983
Remember this? Visit of Stoke Lord Mayor Cllr Doug Brown to the Colour Works in 1983

Afterwards, the memories will be gathered and placed in the Blythe Colours community archive, which is held at Blythe Library. In fact, there’s also likely a full-scale exhibition on the theme sometime in the future – probably Spring next year.

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Community’s fund?

Earlier this year, a resident raised a query about the ‘Newton Solar Array Community Fund’. This fund consists of money donated annually, by the owners of the local solar farm, for community projects within the Draycott-in-the-Moors district. The owners authorised the village council to choose which projects should receive the money.
However, the resident noticed that a lot of the fund was not going to grassroots projects, but paying for projects that the village council itself was responsible for. The resident thought that that was not quite right… and objected.

Well, a few months ago, the owners of the solar farm, RES, stepped in to the row, and suggested that the village council limit itself to half the funds. This suggestion has been rejected by councillors, who said that, in their view, “the council IS the community”, and they wouldn’t even contemplate the idea of a limit.
RES has accepted that decision.

Still…, that view of it seems strange to us. Surely it’s a bit like the government using Lottery money to pay for motorways? Would the nation’s electors be happy with that?
We pay our taxes – both to the national government, and to the village council – for what’s necessary. Shouldn’t these authorities be content with that?

Draycott Fayre 2021 – with the Knight! (pic: Neil Archibald)

However, one happy decision is that village councillors have decided that the St Margaret’s Annual Fayre should have a grant of £750, from this same Solar Array Fund, to defray outstanding costs from this year’s event.
The fayre, held last August, was unexpectedly down on visitors this year – probably because of Covid – but it is Draycott’s biggest community event, so it surely deserves support in what has been a lean year for it.

Currently, there is around £4000 in the Solar Array Fund. If you have an idea on how it could be spent in the community – please contact the council clerk.

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Footpath blocked

Many of us are getting a bit fed up with the amount of paths being blocked in our local countryside. Sometimes, it’s wanton vandalism, sometimes it’s natural issues (like a fallen tree), but sometimes it seems almost deliberate.
This was the case this month with the small gate beside the railway line in Painsley. The gate is there, installed by the county’s countryside department, as a useful way to force people to think twice before they cross the line (it’s legal to cross the railway line at this point).
But someone had padlocked the gate – leaving no note as to why – meaning some walkers had to turn round and trudge back to where they had come from.
Fortunately, a former county-council officer spotted the illegal closure, and the offending padlock has now been removed.

We do understand that footpaths can be an irritation to some but … they are legal rights of way. There are also proper methods to challenge a footpath if you don’t like its presence.

If you are on a walk and spot a blocked footpath, you can now report it quite easily – click here for details.

***
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News of: new councillors / cricket escape / first responders’ need / Covid’s return / residents’ win

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors & District in early October 2021
In this post we have news of…: new councillors for village / cricket team avoids drop / St Modwen listens to residents / bad Covid news locally / donate to our first-responders

For news of a ‘memories session’ and other events in our area, please go to our What’s On page

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New councillors

Congratulations to the three new local councillors who have just come on board following some resignations earlier in the year. The four current councillors on Draycott village council had to sift through a number of applications before deciding to appoint Glyn Johnson (former Rotary president, from Cresswell), George Plant (stonemason, from Draycott) and Sabrina Hollingum (office professional, from Tean) to join them. We are now back to the full membership of seven councillors.
There is a slight bit of controversy over George, as he is also the council’s lengthsman (aka handyman). The rules do say that an employee of a council cannot be one of its councillors – because it is a conflict of interest. So, that’s being looked into.

What’s good is that both George and Sabrina have young families – so, presumably, they will especially want to ensure there is a bright future for this community.

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No comment

We had hoped that this fresh injection of energy would mean that the council would finally act on the giant Blythe Vale (Phase 2) planning application, which is proposed for the edge of the village. Consultees to the plans (of which our council is one) had even been given a time-extension, for them to compose their reply.
Depressingly, our council couldn’t be bothered to put in comments. Of course, this shouldn’t surprise anyone, as Draycott Council has a terrible track record in these matters, hardly ever showing up when the community needs leadership these days.

Blythe Fields homes construction
Homes under construction in Draycott

Even though their council didn’t care, some residents did make the effort to put in comments – credit to them – you can see their responses for yourself by checking out the statutory planning page.

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It’s back

Things have taken a gloomier air with the resurgence of Covid over the last weeks. Staffordshire is particularly badly hit at the moment: Stafford Borough has the third highest coronavirus infection rate in England, with more cases in one week than it has ever seen before. The Moorlands is not much better off: on September 20th it recorded its highest number of infections in one day ever.

Back to masks? (pic: Pexels.com)

The only good news is that the death-rate is much lower these days – but we can’t be complacent, as deaths are still occurring, even in the young.
The recommendations are: get the jabs; wash your hands; and, if you have symptoms, book a test, through your doctor. More advice on the Staffordshire Coronavirus webpage.

Perhaps the only good thing to come out of this pandemic is the strong response of local voluntary groups. One such is our local First Responders group (‘first responders’ are medical professionals who volunteer to be on call in their neighbourhoods in emergencies, as they can often be there much quicker than ambulances).
But even a much-needed group like this one has to raise its own funds. So, now our local FRs have put up an online donation page on their website. If you have £5, they would welcome your contribution.

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Cricketers pull it out of the bag!

At the beginning of September, our local cricket team looked in real trouble. The Blythe team, based in Cresswell, was in the relegation zone of their Division.
But – credit to the players – they put in an amazing last week to the season, winning their last two games by large margins, thus avoiding any drop.

Watching the game at Blythe Cricket Club
A rough year for at Blythe Cricket Club First XI

Yes, the team had a very rough ride this season, even though they eventually finished ninth in the NSSCL Division One table. Let’s hope for better things next year.

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A win for residents

But we finish off with good news (at last!).
At a fractious public meeting in August, representatives from St Modwen Developers faced questions from a group of residents about the new estates which are going up at the east end of the village.
One issue was the lorries and construction plant travelling up Woodlands Lane to the site. (Woodlands Lane is no more than a track, even though there are houses on it). The vehicles were “big, noisy & dangerous” said one resident – why couldn’t the vehicles use the main road through the estate instead? Passions ran high, as one lady said she worried for her children.

To be fair to St Modwen, they did listen, and have now reversed their decision, and will halt large-vehicle traffic up Woodlands Lane. So well-done to them, but also well-done to the residents who put up a strong case!

Hopefully, our village council will take notice of this result. We say to them: see councillors?, everyone can make a difference – but it requires an effort

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NEWS of: new defib / fayre good report / ‘tower captain’ / laptops needed

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors & District in mid September 2021
In this post we have news of…: Third defibrillator for Draycott / reports of the fayre / bell-ringers’ news / save your old laptops

For news of an arts & crafts market and other events in our area, please go to our What’s On page

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New defib for village

Excellent news is that Draycott-in-the-Moors now has a new public defibrillator – which was installed at the Draycott Arms just a couple of weeks ago.

Defib at The Arms

A defibrillator is a little unit which is used to deliver a mild electric shock to anyone who is in cardiac arrest, and so it can save lives. It is not a substitute for calling 999, but, when minutes count, it can be used while you’re waiting for the ambulance.

Well done to the parish council for facilitating the project, but well-done chiefly of course to the donors. These units are not provided by the authorities; cash is needed. And well done too to the Arms; the system will feed off the pub’s electric supply – without that, the mechanism could fail.

The new unit brings the number of defibrillators in the locality to three – joining the long-established one in the Cresswell kiosk and the one at Draycott Sports Centre. It’s hoped one may be installed at The Golden Keg in the future.

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Fayre enough

It’s a bit after the event, yes, but we should mention the Draycott Fayre, which took place on August 22nd.
Despite having to be organised very much at the last minute (to ensure it was Covid-friendly), things went smoothly and a good day was had by all. The Stunner newspaper did the event proud by giving it a centre-spread in its pages, using photographs taken by Neil Archibald.

Centre-pages coverage of Draycott Fayre in the Stunner (Cheadle & Tean Times)

(Neil Archibald is one of the stalwarts at Draycott St Margaret’s Church. Many of the church’s congregation were helping on the day, because the funds raised go toward the maintenance of our 800 year-old church).
Neil has put an album of dozens of photos of the day on to the Flickr website on the internet – click here to see them. There’s a nice sense of humour to them, so well worth checking out!

Of course, the numbers of visitors were well down on previous years, so the church won’t get its usual level of funding from the fayre this year, but still well-done to John Clarke and his team for making it happen, against the odds…

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Aye aye captain

Talking of John Clarke, congratulations to him on being appointed ‘Tower Captain’ at St Margaret’s. The moniker sounds grander than it is (!), but it is an old title, meaning the leader of a church’s bell-ringers.

The Draycott St Margarets bell-ringing team, with John Clarke third from right (pic: St Margaret’s website)

The team at the church will be busy practising over the next months for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year, when bells will ring right across the country.
They always need volunteers (and it’s great way to keep fit), so, if you fancy a go, email John.

If you enjoy bells (and who doesn’t?), there’s nothing more calming than to sit outside the church on an evening when the team are practising (usually Thursdays). It’s a great way to relieve stress, honest…

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Old makes new

Finally, don’t throw away your unwanted computers. Members of our local Rotary Club are asking for donations of second-hand hand laptops/tablets, which they will refurbish and pass on to neighbourhood schools.

The need for more computers for children is a Covid thing, because so many kids have had to go online for their education, and sometimes even just to catch up on what they’ve been missing – so kids without a lot of access to a computer are having a hard time.

By the way, if you’re concerned about any data that might be still on your computer, don’t worry. The promise is that the computers will be first ‘wiped’ by a professional technician, which makes it a great option.
Rotary’s Peter Nixon is also offering to come pick up the old computers; or you can drop them off at Blythe Bridge Library. Contact Peter for details.

***
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NEWS: councillors needed / Blythe Vale Estate? no comment!

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors & District in late August 2021
In this post we have news of…: extension for councillor applications / lack of response to Blythe Vale proposals

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

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More time to apply to be on the council

As you may know, the village council of Draycott is currently looking for three new councillors, after vacancies came about earlier this year.
The deadline to apply had been September 6th, but the good news that it’s just been extended to September 13th. So, if you’re only just back from the beach, relax, you still have time to get your thoughts together…

Got something to say? Nominate yourself!

Being a village councillor is extremely easy. The qualifications required are very basic (like being over eighteen); and there are no particular duties once you’ve been selected. If you’re thinking that nothing could be that easy(!), click on the Download button (opens as a WORD doc) to get some more details.

But, yes, it really is what you make it. In fact, the only big thing is that you need to care a lot about Draycott, or Cresswell or Totmonslow (the council’s local area) or, preferably, all three!

To apply for the role, all you have to do is write a letter to Draycott Council (at 3 The Island, ST10 4JE) with your name and address and saying why you’d make a good councillor for our little district. And make sure it will arrive by September 13th!

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Blythe Vale Phase 2 rolls on

Goodness knows we need new councillors! The present crop are failing us miserably.

As you’ll know, the latest big housing development proposed for this area, Blythe Vale 2, which will add a further 200+ homes to the 100+ already being built on Blythe Vale 1 (also known as Blythe Fields), is poised for approval.

The Blythe Vale 1 (Blythe Fields) estate is in blue, the proposed Blythe Vale 2 estate is in red

The basic plans were published a few months ago – and the developers (St Modwen) are now calling for a decision on them. It’s likely that a conclusive, big meeting will be held at Leek sometime in October or November, at a sitting of the regional Planning Committee.
So – seeing as this is a hugely significant moment – what have our village councillors – both at parish and district level – been doing about it? Er. Mmm. …nothing!

We are told that St Modwen organised a private get-together with our councillors as long ago as April – but there has been no report, or even a quick summary of what was said, and no public statement issued by our councillors. We wonder why.
Even a few weeks ago, a public meeting took place on the matter at Draycott Church Hall, at which representatives from St Modwen took questions – but only two of our councillors showed up.

After that less than impressive showing, you’d think that the least that our councillors could do would be to put in some formal responses to the proposals, even if they were just short ones. But…
If you go to the Blythe Vale 2 Plans Application Page and take a look, you’ll see that a number of local residents have in fact submitted comments – and well done to them. But our councillors’ thoughts are not there – they didn’t bother to write anything. The deadline for comments was the 24th August.

So, despite having three months to think about it, and even though it is an issue which will affect this community for decades to come, our village council failed to address this matter or to engage with the local electors – which is depressing.
Fortunately for our councillors, the Planning Committee has just announced today that it will extend the consultation comments period – so let’s hope we now see definitely see something from them.
St Modwen must be clapping their hands with joy to think how slow our current council has been.
We really deserve better. Roll on the new councillors.

***
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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

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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.
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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.
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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…?)
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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…

***
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Planters project – done!

Over the last four years, the Draycott planters project has gradually come to fruition. It’s been a long and hard slog, but it now seems complete, and this summer has seen a lovely flowering of the plants in them.

The village ended up with eleven planters in all: two at the eastern ‘gateway’, two at the end of Stuart Avenue, two at the Cheadle Rd bus top, and one each at the ‘Village Centre’, Brookside, and Totmonslow – though the ones at Draycott West and at Cresswell have sadly been stolen in the last couple of months.

The whole initiative (see pics of examples, below) was the brain-child of local resident Lee Warburton, who took it on himself to construct most of the planters, with donations for the wood coming from the community (firstly through a Crowdfunder scheme in 2017) and a matching grant from the ‘Draycott Solar Fund’. Combined, all this raised around £500.

  • Planters, Draycott bus shelter
  • Planter sponsored by Horizon, Stuart avenue
  • Planters at Stuart Avenue
  • Planter, by Lee Warburton

However, then there was a big hiccup – the County Council introduced some red tape into the process. As ‘street furniture’, the planters needed licences. And so followed a pause of a frustrating few months!
Things only got fully rolling again in 2020, with the purchase of compost and flowers via the Staffordshire Covid-19 Fund, at which time students at Draycott Moor College came along, giving much-needed help with the planting.

Also round about this time, the village council felt it was time to make the whole scheme ‘official’, and stepped in to adopt the project (though its involvement did cause some £500 of unforeseen extra costs).
A further grant of £250 from the Solar Array Fund was sought, to pay our local horticulturalists (at Draycott Nurseries) to maintain the planters professionally for 2021 – and so keep the good blooms in fine shape!
All in all, the project has cost around £1500 since it kicked off, including those grants and donations from residents.

(Pic: Facebook)

It should be remembered however that much of the effort, including building and varnishing the planters, has been voluntary. Lee should get the most of the thanks, but a number of other residents have been instrumental too.
And now, the project is complete.

Future

The future seems safe too, as Draycott Nurseries have offered a sponsor arrangement, in which they will stock the planters each year. Grateful thanks go to Draycott Nurseries.

The ultimate responsibility (and maintenance) lies with the village council however. So, it has been out there recruiting volunteer local residents, who it wants to look after the individual planters – watering, weeding, feeding, and keeping a watchful eye.

With a little luck, and some good growing years, these nine planters will keep the village looking colourful for some time to come…

Just a little addition…

It shouldn’t be forgotten that the nine ‘official’ planters are not the only attractive horticultural sights in the neighbourhood.

Church Lane car park display

The planter at the end of Draycott Old Road has been there for over five years, tended by a local resident there, while the displays at the Church Lane car-park, Grange Farm (on Cheadle Road) and at the entrance to Meadowside, all also tended by local residents as a labour of love, are always guaranteed to lift the spirits.

You never know: at this rate, Draycott could start thinking about entering the Britain In Bloom competition!

***
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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 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