In January this year George Osborne informed our group that Cheshire East Council would no longer communicate with us.
Shortly afterwards residents affected by the peat workings received a notice of Variation of Conditions under reference 15/0064M and were asked for views and opinions.
The proposals and responses can be viewed by visiting the Council's website but of most interest is the reply from the Environmental Agency. We wrote to them setting out our fears but didn't receive a reply, even though we contacted them again by email. The following contains the gist of our letter.
The recent application for a variation of conditions for the restoration of the peat extraction workings on Lindow Moss (also known as Saltersley Common) confirms our worst fears over the Council's lack of action and the future of the Moss.
The application is nothing short of a threat: you grant planning permission for housing or we will drag our feet on restoration until 2042, if we do it at all. Even then the application is sadly lacking in detail. There is no economic viability assessment to demonstrate that profits would be sufficient to fund the works, and the environmental and ecological submissions are wholly inadequate in scope and content. In fact, the supporting documentation bears little or no relation to the current conditions and extent of the workings. The key questions however, are, who would fund the building, who would buy the houses and who would insure them sited in the shadow of extensive and serious ground subsidence and dewatering.
Even so, it is the EA's consultation response that really puts the Council's failure to oversee the site into perspective. In this the EA acknowledges the likelihood that the application will be refused and peat working on the site could continue until 2042. Crucially it opines that in this event Cheshire County Council and Cheshire East Councils failure to enforce the existing conditions 'leaves the peat and proposed wetland restoration vulnerable to the effects of any ongoing passive drainage - especially if drains are over deepened into the underlying sand' (which has happened). The EA goes on to state that 'so long as the mineral workings persist, those Conditions should continue to apply'.
Of course, as accepted by the LGO, the Council was guilty of maladministration in not enforcing the conditions. The EA's response confirms that CEC's failure to secure fixed bed level control at the drainage outlet to Sugar Brook, breaches of the drainage base and lack of monthly groundwater monitoring are all contrary to the EA's clear recommendations and confirms the view that the site is hydrogeologically out of control, with the site described by experts as 'comprehensively trashed' and Sugar Brook becoming heavily silted, something the EA will have to address at public expense. In addition, the unchecked outflow into the water system is also in breach of the Water Resources Act 1991.
When will CEC wake up and seek to remediate the situation to meet the EA's clearly stated fears about restoration and the continued threats to surrounding properties? At the moment they even refuse to answer or engage with local concerns.
Photo: Photo taken on Monday 19th June 2017 at Newgate Kennels. As the ground continues to dry out further cracks are appearing under the kennel blocks. This one is almost 12". The second and third photos were taken last September, in the same place. As you can see, since then the land has suffered a considerable drop - and it's still happening.
Last photo shows how the ground is dropping and exposing the tree roots. They will eventually fall and die.
Tony Evans, Saltersley Common Preservation Society.