Tag Archives: draycott in the moors parish council

NEWS: road plans / tax rise / artwork / Malcolm retires /

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors & District in mid February 2022
In this post we have news of…: anger about road changes / Malcolm Price retires / Oak Tree Farm vacancy / community artwork at library / council tax

For news of an Ed Sheeran tribute night and other happenings in our area, please go to our What’s On page

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Residents’ anger

As we’ve been reporting, new plans for the areas of road at the Cresswell Lane-Uttoxeter Rd junction and at central Cresswell have now been submitted to the authorities, and will come up for decision soon.
These works must compulsorily be paid for by the housing developers Scentarea, as an integral part of their project to build a large industrial estate on the business park site.
For full details of the plans and how they might affect residents, click here.

The plan, for the junction where Cresswell Lane meets Uttoxeter Road, is for it to have traffic lights

Residents in central Cresswell are particularly angry about the plans for their bit because they are a significant downgrade on what they’d been assured would happen five years ago. A small group has been holding meetings in the Cresswell lay-by (where the works will happen) to discuss strategy.

(It’s a shame to have to say that, out of the nine local councillors who represent this district, only two have attended these meetings. When you consider that these works will be the biggest infrastructure change to the district for forty years, one might have expected a bigger turn-out from councillors).
Anyway, councillors Pete Wilkinson and Glyn Johnson did make the effort to turn up to the meetings, and, thanks to Pete, the planning authorities have agreed to postpone their decision by a fortnight, which gives everyone a bit more chance to air the issues.

In fact, a number of official letters of complaint have already been lodged with the planning authority. (For the letters, click here, and then scroll down to the bottom of that page to read them). A particularly detailed one from resident Michelle Steele sums up the issues pretty well…!
The next discussion of the plans will come at the next Draycott council meeting on Monday 14th Feb.

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Council tax

Talking of Draycott council, earlier this month the members debated what amount of money would be needed for its activities in the forthcoming financial year. This amount then translates into the annual ‘precept’ (i.e. the council’s council tax demand).
The council decided on a 2% tax increase, which includes an award to the clerk of the council of a 4% raise in wages.

What we’d like to see as part of this process is some sort of plan for the coming twelve months on how this money is to be spent – the projects in the pipeline, a note of the major issues the council will be addressing and so on. Some councils even do five-year plans, but we don’t expect miracles…
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Farewell Malcolm

A familiar figure round the village is Malcolm Price, the official litter-picker. You’ll see him walking the pavements gathering MacDonald’s cartons, plastic bottles etc that have been chucked on the floor by careless citizens. Blue bin bags, full to the brim and waiting for pick-up, are usually a sign he has been by.

Well, Malcolm has decided the time is right to retire. At the age of 79, he feels that crossing and re-crossing the busy roads of Draycott is just too risky.
So… happy retirement, Malcolm…!

(If you’re wondering what’s happening about litter in the interim, it’s lovely to report that a mother & child volunteer team has stepped forward temporarily, as part of a Duke Of Edinburgh Scheme project).
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Artwork lights

If you haven’t been along recently to our local library in Blythe Bridge, it’s worth the trip, just to see its new community artwork (see pic below)

Consisting of twenty or so lampshades with a total of 300 panels stitched into them, the whole thing was made by community groups at the library over the last six months. Each panel in the lamp-shades tells a story from the history of the district, from the railways to factories to famous events.
Draycottians will notice a special Blythe Colours Works panel and a Draycott Fayre panel.
Best time to see it is toward dusk, when the panels really shine brightly.
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Oak Tree expands

Finally, if you’re looking for a straightforward job where you can do a bit of good too, a vacancy for a cook has come up in the Oak Tree Farm Project’s public tea-room, which is about to re-open soon.
The farm, which lies about two miles south of Cresswell, is well known for its work with people with learning disabilities. On the farm the participants learn crafts, do gardening, and help in the tea-room and in the plants & crafts shop.
During Covid, the project even managed to expand by developing its shop on to a new part of the site.

If you do ever fancy a drive out, it’s a calming place to go. Recommended!

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News: Covid (again) / N Plan abandoned / Xmas projects / Cash criticised

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors & District in early December 2021
In this post we have news of…: Covid concerns (again) / Neighbourhood Plan abandoned / village group’s projects / MP Sir Bill criticised

For news of Christmas carol events, Xmas dances and other happenings in our area, please go to our What’s On page

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Covid issues

Covid just simply go away. A new variant (the ‘Omicron’) is now out there and we in north Staffordshire has to face it. It could be that the unvaccinated (still a fifth of the population) are spreading it, so the drive to enable all these people to get jabbed is intense, and our local GPs have been diverted from their normal duties to help out. Whatever, the figures are not great: Staffordshire has seen around 100,000 cases during the pandemic and the numbers in the English Midlands are not falling, so masks are now compulsory again in shops and on public transport. Sigh.
That said, case figures in the Staffs Moorlands (which is us) are dropping – deaths are zero this week in this part of the world (though hundreds of people are still sick). But what will be the Omicron effect?

Local organisations are trying to respond appropriately.
The Draycott Sports Centre has cancelled its kids’ Xmas party, which is perhaps understandable, but Tean cancelled its Lights Switch-On, even though it’s held outdoors. This month’s Draycott Council meeting has been cancelled. There’s even a thought that the award-winning Draycott Covid Support Group, which had stood down, should be revived.
However, for all that, most events are going ahead as normal. Most of us are trying to be careful, and the general feeling seems to be “don’t panic: carry on!”. See our What’s On page.

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Cheers

Some definite Christmas cheer has already come to those who subscribed to the Draycott Xmas Calendar project. Over 150 of us signed up to get a 2022 calendar, which includes twelve pictures of the district for the twelve months of the year; and they arrived last week. Special seasonal cards were also available.
Congrats to Bev Reardon and her team for a heart-warming initiative.

Christmas cards designed and sold by the Draycott community group are already arriving!

By the way Bev & company are not stopping there, but will be planting thousands of daffodil bulbs over the next few days. The aim is to have a lovely display (on Church Bank mostly) this Spring.

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Plan collapse

Draycott village council has had a dismal year, with resignations and all sorts, and it’s all rather summed up by the council’s decision now to abandon any hope of putting together a neighbourhood-plan. Three of their attempts have already ended in failure, so it was not surprising.

This is not a good thing. It is, admittedly, a deal of work to get an official Neighbourhood Plan agreed, but, as soon as it’s done, the district can then attract a lot of money in grants, and also have influence over the way the district is developed. Other village councils have managed it successfully – so why can’t Draycott Council?

By the way, you may also have noticed that an odd Twitter feed for the council (see pic right) popped up earlier some months ago, yet doesn’t seem to be doing anything…
When a resident enquired why the Twitter account had been set up without a formal vote in a meeting, councillors then claimed not to be aware of it (even though one councillor had put a post on it under his own name!!). All very odd.

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MP criticised

The sleaze allegations, which hit MPs in Parliament last month after the ‘Owen Paterson Affair’, have reminded people that concerns about the way MPs manage their jobs have been going on for some time.
(Our local MP, Sir Bill Cash, got hit with a £15,000 penalty some years ago over ethical standards).

Irritation with the way MPs often employ their own family members – at taxpayers’ expense – got to a point in 2017 when rules were passed to prevent it – but older MPs were exempted and allowed to carry on doing it. The hope was that these older MPs (including Sir Bill) would eventually stop it. But, no, not Sir Bill – he still employs his wife in his parliamentary office, and criticism has been fired at him again for this.

Sir Bill Cash
Sir Bill

By the way, has anyone seen Sir Bill?
Other MPs have returned to doing surgeries, commenting on local matters, and appearing at local events. However, Sir Bill has been noticeably absent from this area (though we are told he did make an appearance at the Cheadle Remembrance Day service). His local webpage is almost blank of news of him.
Why doesn’t Bill like to come here much?

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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: 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: 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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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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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…

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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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Whose Community-Fund is it?

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

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

Solar Array Fund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whose money is it anyway?

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

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

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

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

What to do?

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

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

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

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

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