Water Activities Plan: What are the benefits for Chelford
Walking across the Public Right Of Way (PROW) on the proposed site of the Wake Boarding venue on a beautiful Spring evening listening to a soaring lark singing its heart out, watching the swifts and swallows flying around and the sandmartins darting in and out of their nests in the sandpit lakes banks, I wanted to express my own very personal thoughts on the proposed development as I feel all this will be lost for ever if the plans are approved.
I understand the attraction and argument of providing such an outdoor activity venue with the national emphasis on people of all ages keeping fit and socially interactive and providing jobs for young people. However, there are other considerations, not least, how this development will affect our village.
Breach of Green Belt
The site is in Green Belt and is one of our few truly rural sites within the village where there are no street lights and no houses This makes it an ideal place for wildlife and for people to enjoy walking in the countryside. Indeed this site is part of the Chelford Rail Walk which is in a booklet published by Cheshire East Cheshire (CEC) to encourage people to use the railway network to visit the beautiful Cheshire countryside. This is tourism of a more gentle kind and I believe more appropriate to a rural village like Chelford.
The restoration plan for the land after sand quarrying was completed, also emphasises the importance of this site for a variety of species of birds and the abundance of wildlife in particular the sandmartins that nest in the banks, the swallows, swifts, lapwings, oystercatchers, water fowl, woodland birds, raptors, foxes, badgers and hares.
According to Government Policy PG3, the construction of new buildings is inappropriate in Green Belt and therefore on this site. However, there is an exception:
Provision of appropriate facilities for outdoor sport, outdoor recreation and for cemetries as long as it preserves the openness of the Green Belt and does not conflict with the purposes of including land within it
I do not believe that this application complies with this exception as the development will not preserve the openness of the Green Belt.
There also has to be a compelling local need to implement such an exception and I do not believe this is the case here. The developer cites several times that such a facility would keep the bird population down and therefore help the site to comply with restrictions sought by Manchester Airport for air traffic safety.
This is not a 'need' as the restoration plan agreed by CEC, the landowner, Hansons and Manchester Airport already has actions within it to comply with the bird population restriction.
The applicant describes the building as small but to me it is huge for such a rural setting. It is 5.4. metres high covering an area of 850sqm with no screening from the road. The stanchions and wires give an industrial look to what will become an urban landscape. There will be a car park, no doubt with lighting for security, for 100 cars and one or two buses. This size of car park, in my view, is totally inappropriate use of Green Belt land.
Once the Green Belt has been breached it will be gone for ever and it sets a dangerous precedent for other such areas around our village.
The developer states that 30 people will be employed. Talking to a representative at the public meeting it emerged that 20 jobs would be a more accurate number and these would be seasonal and mostly part time. There is also no guarantee that these jobs would go to local people.
Noise and light pollution
I understand that Wake Boarding is accompanied by loud music as part of the 'experience'. This will be a nuisance not only to residents in the immediate area but will also affect those homes west of the railway which are only a half to one mile form this site as the crow flies or, indeed, as the sound travels. At least while the site was being quarried proper sound reduction controls were in place.
The developer wants to operate 7 days a week and from 6.00 to 22.00 each day although this will be less in Winter. Sunday is seen as being the busiest day, a day when Chelford is at its quietest.
The websites for other Wake Parks operated by the company, show that it holds 'hen and stag parties', competition days sponsored by Red Bull and corporate events. These undoubtedly will have loud music, live or otherwise and could go on for most of the day on multiple occasions.
The 100 cars a day predicted will increase traffic on an already busy road. The line of sight on Alderley Road is deceptive in both directions. Many drivers believe that stretch of road is straight and attempt to overtake when it is dangerous to do so. There have been many near misses and some fatalities. Add to this traffic turning right on to the site in an unrestricted speed limit, I believe it to be potentially dangerous.
Our local shops and business are unlikely to benefit from this influx of visitors. Most users will drive directly to the venue and apart from those coming from the west will not go past the shops. As the busiest day for the Wake Park is projected to be Sunday, all our shops except the garage, which is not locally owned, will be shut.
Security of the venue will be difficult as there is a PROW running through the site. When the lights have finally been turned off at 22.00 and with no street lights and nearby houses it could present an attractive meeting place for some of the more adventurous locals to 'chill out' on a Summer night with all the accompanying consequences.
The application states that sewage and foul water (generated by large numbers of visitors) will be removed by the main sewer. There is no main sewer in this area, all properties use septic tanks. Is such a disposal system practical in terms of the volume needed to be handled and also the prevention of potential leakage into the lakes and surrounding land?
I believe that apart from offering an activity venue for younger residents albeit one that could cost around £15 per hour per person and even £5 per person for an open water swim, this development provides very little benefit for our village. Indeed it may do damage.
Over the last few years Chelford Parish Council has worked hard and continues to do so to encourage new families to move to Chelford and current younger residents to set up home within their village. Chelford is a popular residential area as a quiet, small, rural village surrounded by lovely countryside but also with the station and its other facilities and amenities. But would people still want to move here with a large, noisy, urban tourist attraction on their doorstep?
The planning application 16/1353M is available here for residents to comment on. The deadline for comments is next Thursday 28th April.
Kath Gildon, Chelford resident
Village Hall (Main Hall)