Reader's Letter: How about 'The truth is out there'

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There has been much publicity recently concerning the new housing and the restoration of the peat bog. Perhaps the following will help residents to see just what is happening in their area with their Council.

First, here is a transcript of what Ms. Emma Williams, Principal Planning Officer at Cheshire East had to say at the Strategic Planning Board meeting on Wednesday, 19 December 2018. It is taken from a recording made by the BBC who were attending that day.

"With respect to the comments about the subsidence of properties, monitoring has been carried out for a number of years. The data collected and analysed by our groundwater officers shows there has been no significant lowering of the water table in the peat and the peat extraction doesn't appear to have induced any significant change in the groundwater gradient or the direction of flow at the site boundary. We are advised that the data of levels off site indicate an external influence to the north which is impacting on water levels and it is, therefore, likely that there is some other water abstraction or drainage work which is having a dominating control on water levels, not the peat extraction site.

"We have got no evidence to suggest that this proposal will cause problems of subsidence and no objections have been raised by the technical consulting teams and we consider the proposed compartment specific restoration scheme will provide the clear and effective means of controlling water levels as the work progresses."

The application was voted on with a split vote. Labour and Independents 4 Tory 4. The proposal was carried on the casting vote of the chair who had declared beforehand which way it would go.

Now, with respect to Ms. Williams and Cheshire East, here is the truth.

SCPS investigations show that the technical groundwater officers are in fact the Environment Agency. They were accepting readings from Cheshire East supplied by Croghan Peat or their agents. These readings,sent to the Environment Agency, were of little use. As pointed out to Cheshire East, there was no datum point to work from.

The leak in the North Eastern corner is where the underlying running sand has been breached. We sent evidence of this to Cheshire East, suggesting that if they looked on Google Earth they could see it from outer space. This corner is where significant subsidence has occurred at Newgate Kennels and reported to Cheshire East on numerous occasions.

In 2008. Newgate Kennels built some new blocks on piles.

Taking the base of the block nearest the bog, in 2018 a surveyor followed to the base of the nearest ditch. A drop of 12 feet was recorded.

In 2014, at the suggestion of Giles Coppock QC, SCPS commissioned a hydrogeologist to prepare a report on the bog. In 2018 that report was completed and it makes very interesting reading. Presented at the Strategic Planning Board meeting it was ignored. We have been told that deformation maps of the area show the bog has one of the highest subsidence rates in Cheshire, far greater than elsewhere in the Cheshire brine compensation area. Opposite Newgate Kennels is where Ms. Williams admitted there was a problem.

And this is where Cheshire East is allowing houses to be built!

We are quite happy to show our evidence to a qualified third party. We do not include Croghan Peat or Cheshire East in this invitation.

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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Anthony Evans
Wednesday 8th July 2020 at 8:05 am
I should have added that the north east corner is where Croghan Peat started moving the peat from prior to restoration!
Keith Marsden
Wednesday 8th July 2020 at 3:26 pm
Surely, if what Mr Evans says is true, any ongoing work should be halted immediately until a full investigation has been carried out? Or have Cheshire East simply railroaded a planning application through despite strong evidence in opposition? Is it not time for the law to intervene?
Rick Andrews
Wednesday 8th July 2020 at 5:18 pm
The houses will be built on the more stable land where the processing building is located. However, it is clear that the conditions associated with that planning approval regarding the restoration of the peat bog are not being followed. It seems that the owners have no regard for planning and environmental legal obligations and our councillors have no interest in requiring compliance. Related to this has anyone noticed the new hardcore access to the bog woodland being constructed from Saltersley Hall?
Peter Smith
Wednesday 8th July 2020 at 6:30 pm
In reply to Mr Anthony Evans, I have seen most of the data he has collected on Lindow Moss and the expert reports clearly state that the peat extraction has in large been the cause of localised subsidence near the Moss. I have also walked the site with experts in the field of hydrology who have told me that the dip wells on site are not fit for purpose, being exposed to the elements and covered in brambles. Not a sign that they have been regularly read. Theses are the same dip wells that C/E have based the planning application on.
All this reminds me of Cheshire East’s manipulation of air quality figures back in 2017.
Anthony Evans
Wednesday 8th July 2020 at 6:47 pm
Rick. Subsidence has been reported on the opposite side of Moor Lane close to the entrance to the yard. As for the track from Saltersley Hall Farm, this has been reported to Cheshire East, along with the tonnes of inert waste being tipped illegally.
John Dwyer
Wednesday 8th July 2020 at 7:59 pm
This whole debacle smacks of the ‘black arts’ at work behind the scenes. Somebody, certainly not the concerned members of SCPS, is not telling the truth. The conclusion appears blindingly obvious. But why would anybody be bending or avoiding the truth in a situation that is day by day disastrously damaging the local fauna and flora?
Carol Shawcross
Wednesday 8th July 2020 at 8:02 pm
Yes I’ve noticed this new access next to Saltersley farm. Please correct me if I’m wrong but My understanding is that there will be tonnes & tonnes of inert waste being dumped on this land! In massive volumes by dumper trucks and I fear this land will then be unsuitable for farming and magically only be suitable for building!
Gerard Lee
Thursday 9th July 2020 at 9:45 am
Having observed the environmental decline in the peat extraction area and the awful changes around Saltersley Hall Farm over the past years, I, too, have come to the conclusion that CEC appear to be derelict in their duties and that a proper, independent investigation is now urgently needed so that an honest, clear course of action can finally be put into place to preserve and improve our precious landscape.
Anthony Evans
Thursday 9th July 2020 at 10:35 am
On Tuesday I made allegations that lies were told in the evidence given by
CEC in favour of the housing application.
So far no-one has contacted me to say I am mistaken.
John Dwyer
Thursday 9th July 2020 at 5:41 pm
I would dearly love to hear CEC’s response to Mr Evans’s allegations of lies told by Council officials.
Pete Taylor
Thursday 9th July 2020 at 7:55 pm
Inert material on the "farm"- Airport Parking?
Peter Davenport
Thursday 9th July 2020 at 9:27 pm
I see from the above letters, that some erroneous statements from Cheshire East have been found, and something out to be done about it, i.e. a proper independent investigation. Some of the old Cheshire East stretching of the truth to sit them has caught up with the. Hopefully I hope the new set of councillors and officials take note of this.
I doubt this, as from a recent enquiry about the deeds of the playing field in Brown's Lane cannot be found!!!!, and roughly 40 years old, plus a transfer from Macclesfield Borough to Cheshire East. Then we read about some appeal for a development, which is going to appear, that Council officials were giving advice to the developer re the appeal. These officials are paid by us to run the council, and not give free info to a developer, without permission from the Chief Officer, and if given, and the developer to be charged accordingly.
Reading the above, I hope the Independent and Labour Councillors drive this home.
Peter Davenport
Mark Goldsmith
Thursday 9th July 2020 at 10:01 pm
There are many claims in Tony's letter, so I will try and tackle them all:

- In 2012 the Local Government Ombudsman independently ruled there was no evidence to support subsidence claims.

- Regardless, Cheshire East is not responsible for subsidence claims. It is a civil law matter, not a planning one. Therefore, there is an established legal route that would involve claiming damages solely from Croghan Peat. Local planning authorities are not involved in these cases though. To date neither SCPS nor anyone it advises has done this.

- Both myself and the Head of Planning at Cheshire East have regularly exchanged detailed e-mails with Tony ans SCPS. Unfortunately, Tony mentions his evidence but refuses to share it with us or anyone else at Cheshire East. This makes verifying his claims very difficult.

- All new evidence presented on the day of the Strategic Planning Board is rejected. This is standard practise. This planning application took 3 years to bring to the committee, so there was ample time for SCPS to submit their hydrologist report beforehand.

- The planning committee talked about this case for almost 4 hours. Therefore, it is exceptionally remote that the comments Tony mentions influenced the final decision. As with all council planning meetings, you can listen to it and decide for yourself on the council’s web site (link below). You don’t need a BBC recording though.

http://moderngov.cheshireeast.gov.uk/ecminutes/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=279&MId=7137&Ver=4

- SCPS spoke at this meeting for their allotted 3 minutest and opposed the application. They only mentioned subsidence for about 3 seconds though, which shows how important they thought it was to this decision.

- Although the Independents voted to refuse this planning permission, neither we nor Cheshire East can now reverse it. Only a high court judge can do it and only on the basis that due process was not followed. Once granted, planning permission is notoriously difficult to overturn because of this ruling.

- If planning permission is somehow reversed then we have to wait until 2044 to enforce the peat bog restoration. However, this planning permission means it could start this year.

- The truck in the picture has a legal right to be there and to remove any residual peat. Cheshire East Planning and myself are monitoring the work and have regularly visited the site to ensure they are acting within the scope of their licence.


I hope this clarify things. There is no conspiracy, just an emotionally charged and complex site that urgently needs to be returned to nature. Something that I and the officers at Cheshire East are committed to make happen.


Mark Goldsmith
Residents of Wilmslow
Wilmslow West & Chorley Ward, Cheshire East & WTC
Anthony Evans
Friday 10th July 2020 at 6:46 pm
Mark. Your comments are interesting but not strictly accurate. Allow me to put our point of view.
The first complaint about subsidence was submitted to CCC in 1997. This involved The White House on Rotherwood Road. Later we were joined by Newgate Kennels and we are aware of other local properties suffering the same problem. From 1997 to the present day, first CCC and now CEC deny any of this is caused by the peat extraction.
Unlike ROW and Transition Wilmslow, not only are we fighting for the peat bog but also for residents properties and businesses. In all the submissions from them I have not heard any mention of this, even though the kennels employ 44 locals and The White House runs a stabling business.
Now to answer some of the main points.
You are quite right the LGO ruled she couldn't find evidence of a causal link between the extraction and the subsidence. She did however find the council guilty of maladministration for not enforcing its own conditions. After receiving the judgement we were advised by Giles Coppock QC to find the link so an hydrogeologist was commissioned to investigate and report. We now have that proof.
We are aware that we cannot sue the council for subsidence, which is why we have issued an intent to claim against Croghan Peat. They have received it this week.
Dealing with the Chief Planning Officer, like most of Cheshire East, is like pulling teeth. You obviously didn't read my letter properly as I said I would share the evidence with anyone BUT Cheshire East. In fact, Joel Millett from Newgate Kennels gave permission for the hydrogeologists report, which he paid a tidy sum for, to be given to Transition Wilmslow in the hope it would help.
On the day the evidence was presented to the Strategic Planning Board it couldn't have been rejected as no-one new what was in it. The hydrogeologists report was only completed some days before the meeting. I think you have that one totally wrong.
As for the meeting itself, whether the transcript came from the BBC or the council, it doesn't make any difference. It's all the same words. As it happens, I didn't know of the council service.
In the three minutes allowed we presented our case as lucidly as possible, but what was the point. It was a done deal. Had our representative said a huge hole had appeared in the yard it would still have been voted through. I am surprised at you Mark as you know the person presenting our case was the most highly qualified person in the room.
Again, we know that only a high court judge can change the decision. We are currently looking at this possibility as we know CEC stood up and lied to get the decision through.

I will ignore the rest as being too petty for comment. This comes of standing too close to Cheshire East.
Mark Goldsmith
Saturday 11th July 2020 at 2:51 am
Hi Tony

I recognise your great work in fighting to try and get the peat bog restored but despite my many detailed emails to you about the current situation, I still have no idea how you actually want to get it restored.

Instead, you seem focused on generating publicity to stop the best chance of any restoration happening. Your most recent comments add to my confusion and the many contradictions I experience in dealing with you. For example:

- You have just said about the planning meeting "we presented our case as lucidly as possible, but what was the point. It was a done deal" then immediately go onto say "we know CEC stood up and lied to get the decision through". Why did the officers need to stand up and lie when it was already a done deal? It's a contradiction and on a pretty serious accusation that could be libellous as you have also named the officer.

- You have just said Cheshire East is not responsible for subsidence but in your previous articles on this site you hold it responsible for the subsidence.

- You want your new evidence to be considered and acted upon but you won’t give it to Cheshire East to consider or act upon.

- You complain Cheshire East officers don't engage with you but your emails to them are heavily sarcastic and openly contemptuous.

- You say CE Planning is incompetent and your advisers are the best. But then you get basic planning policy wrong (eg you say your hydrogeologists report was "Presented at the Strategic Planning Board meeting it was ignored." and have just stood by that claim "I think you have that one totally wrong". However, the policy on public speaking at planning committees states Number 1.3..."In order to be fair to all parties, no other presentation aids will be permitted. Similarly, the circulation of information, photographs and/or plans at the meeting will not be allowed.".
https://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/pdf/planning/protocol-public-speaking-at-planning-committiees.pdf

So to be blunt, you had 3 years to submit your report but left it too late, haven't ever read the rules and blame Cheshire East for your own failings.

There are more and I don't want to appear petty but it is important people know the other side to this story. If you are intent on fighting old battles you lost against the old Cheshire East administration, then I’m not following you down that rabbit hole. It will waste time I don't have and achieve nothing.

Instead, I have accepted that the current situation is not ideal but there is little I can do to change it. So, I am going to focus on getting the best possible outcome for the peat bog that I can. You have my direct contact details, so please let me know if you want to help with this or not.
Anthony Evans
Saturday 11th July 2020 at 11:06 am
Mark, this is very un-professional. And I thought we were on the same side.

I stand by what I have written without he said she said.
Could I suggest you concentrate your efforts on the restoration of the peat bog and Cheshire East. We will concentrate our efforts on the peat bog and Cheshire East plus Newgate Kennels and The White House.
Peter Smith
Sunday 12th July 2020 at 7:52 am
In reply to Mark Goldsmith.
After reading your replies to Mr Evans, I thought I would take a walk over the moss and take some pictures of the dip wells used to measure the water table on the moss.
This picture is of one of the dip wells adjacent to Rotherwood road. This well is meant to be read on a regular basis (monthly I think). I can assure you that there is a well somewhere in all that undergrowth, but I don’t think it has been read for some time.

This is a second dip well sited near Rotherwood road. As can be seen from the picture, the dip well is totally unfit for purpose. It should have a locked cover and be tamperproof. Clearly here the cover has been removed allowing even rain water to affect the readings. Secondly it is clear that the surrounding land has sunk away from the dip well pipe by approximately half a meter showing a clear sign of ground contraction (subsidence), something C/E say isn’t happening.
The most worrying part of all this is the importance given to the readings taken from these dip wells. As part of the planning, Croghan have to supply C/E with regular dip well reading. This allows C/E to determine the level of damage occurring on the Moss. The readings are then sent to C/E who forward them to the Environment Agency to be interpreted as C/E don’t have anybody who is qualified in this field. The E/A interpret the data and then return the figures to C/E.
When questioned about the data, the E/A went to great lengths to tell us in a letter that they in no way would stand by the data as they only interpreted information supplied by C/E and not data collected by themselves.
So we have a system here where the developer of the site collects his own dip well readings and supplies them to the local authority who sub contract the readings to a third party for analysis. The third party quite correctly will not stand by the data as they don’t know how credible the readings are and all this information is used to decide whether the fourteen houses they have granted planning for and surrounding properties are liable to subsidence or not, bearing in mind that the dip wells are still not fit for purpose.
I would also like to agree with Mark that C/E is not liable for any subsidence, but as the planning authority in charge of the Moss, they do have a duty of care to protect local residents and their property from damage resulting from mining and peat extraction. This clearly isn’t being upheld when such important readings are taken from dip wells that are not fit for purpose.
I welcome Mark Goldsmith to contact me and come and view the damage the peat extraction has caused to the property where I live.
Joel Millett
Sunday 12th July 2020 at 3:25 pm
I agree with you Peter, a duty of care. This has been very absent from the planning authority. The last planning officer to visit Newgate Kennels inspected the damage (which affects over 2 acres and 9 buildings) said to me as he was leaving "I feel sorry for you".
Last week my solicitor wrote to Croghan Peat to notify them that I am bringing a claim in nuisance against them. Sadly, I had no option left because I do have a duty of care to my 44 employees, my 2,000 loyal clients and the future of a business my grandmother Jess founded over 72 years ago.
Jon Newell
Sunday 12th July 2020 at 5:26 pm
Having read the posts on this issue, it seems to me that the potential buyers of the proposed housing on this site will never be able to obtain property insurance - without which they will never be able to get a mortgage.

No potential buyers,

means no development,

means no restoration.

We need to return to basics. Restoration must be completed before any developments can take place. The proposed developers have probably already reached this point.

CEC need to be sure the proposed developers are not just looking to maximise all they can before dropping the company that is party to the contract into liquidation. I am sure CEC are aware of this risk and are taking it into account when dealing with the site owners.
John Dwyer
Monday 13th July 2020 at 5:25 pm
It seems clear to me that the closer to this problem you are geographically you more concerned you are - and justifiably so. On the other hand, the remote officials appear to have other priorities.
Paul Maddock
Wednesday 22nd July 2020 at 11:06 am
One way to get a more 'independent' but professional view on all aspects of this site would be to get in touch with Manchester, Salford and Manchester Met. Universities. With the site gaining some attention for both local, regional and national importance, it would make several excellent Masters and PhD projects in fields of Geography, Geology, Architecture & Land management, Biology, Environmental Studies and related disciplines. It also then becomes very difficult for council or other remote 'experts' to overturn the findings of good quality academically peer reviewed research conducted over a longer period of time at the locale. Such backing from academic institutions could also help in the longer term with the preservation of the valuable site while also providing educational links for local and regional Higher level students. Apologies if i am suggesting something that is already happening, and I am just not aware of it.
John Gibbons
Thursday 23rd July 2020 at 10:45 am
As of today 23 July there are at least two full-size trucks leaving the site per day. I know they’re full, they leave a trail of peat on the roadway away from the site.
Anthony Evans
Thursday 23rd July 2020 at 9:55 pm
As Bowden Homes have purchased the site for housing it seems a part of the argument has been settled (no pun intended).
SCPS are still pursuing a case against Croghan Peat whilst they are still taking hundreds of tonnes of peat away from the point nearest to Newgate Kennels where subsidence is the worst in Cheshire.

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