Wychwood Community Group

Working as a community to stop the development of 900 homes and re-open the Gorstyhill golf course

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Chairman’s Statement – 14th April 2013

Chairman’s Statement

Like you, I cannot believe It has only been four weeks since we were all notified that Haddon Property Developments Ltd were proceeding with a public consultation for a proposed outline planning of 900 houses on the Gorstyhill Golf course.

Since then a lot of hard work behind the scenes has taken place, with many man hours being given up freely and voluntarily by a number of likeminded individuals to ensure we have a strong community voice to fight this monstrosity of a proposal.

It has been said by a small number of residents that the intervention of the Leader of the Council Michael Jones at last Sundays meeting put us in a spin and changed our groups direction. This is clearly not the case, it did however make us rethink a number of key objectives after the Leader of the Council stated in front of 350 residents “This is not going to happen. If you don’t want it, the Council will back you 100%.” and “the Strategic Planning board would not support this application” it was a very clear and bold statement from the leader of the council, which I don’t think anyone expected.

The fact the Leader of the Council would make such a bold statement meant he either knew something we didn’t or was just manipulating the crowd. In either case, at that time we felt an opportunity presented itself by Michael Jones continuing to demand the floor following his bold public statement of support of our campaign, and one we had to embrace. But to be clear on this matter, it has not changed our dogmatic and firm stance in fighting this proposed development, it just gave us some additional food for thought.

In fact, over the last few days a large amount of emails, telephone calls and a number of sub-group meetings have take place, which resulted in a committee meeting last Friday evening. This has not just reinforced our commitment to fight this speculative developer from forcing something on us “we do not want”, but helped to gain specialist advice from experts in their respective fields, including legal avenues. Which involves compiling the large amount of legal documentation we have obtained over the past weeks, that will be looked over to see our legal position. We will advise more on this once we have some solid information from our sub-group.

We have to be absolutely sure there is a strong case before proceeding down this road, as the costs are incredibly high. Having a lawyer/barrister review the information would cost a staggering £5-7k, then £25k if we proceeded to litigation, and you can easily double that if we lost the case, so we need to be absolutely sure before; and on reflection, isn’t something we can do in a very short period of time.

We did send out an appeal for funds, which is something we are currently in the process of setting up in order to allow residents who wish to contribute financially the opportunity to do so. We will advise further in due course on the process and proper steps to take.

In terms of the planned mass mail out of letters to the council and planning authority, we heeded Michael Jones’s advice that it would be better served at the planning stage. This will now allow us to have the legal advice, establish additional planning objections based on the plans submitted and allow us to brief properly all the residents the tools and steps they should take. To be clear on this point – “we are still sending out approximately 6,500 letters on mass, but will be done at the right time to give the maximum impact and we do need your support for this”.

What we will be doing is sending a very strong committee letter (on behalf of the community) to Haddon Property Developments Ltd, as well as Edward Timpson, our local MP. The letters we’re attached to the email update. If you wish to personally send letters to these parties, you are more than welcome.

The letter to Haddon will also be cc’d to relevant members of the parish and Cheshire council, plus a request to the Cheshire planning department to keep us aware of any subsequent planning applications or requests to change land usage/status or amendments to the S106 agreement. We feel at this stage sending letters on-mass, particular to those councillors already on-side would be a poor decision and use of all our time, but be assured, this WILL happen at the appropriate time when a planning application is made. The letter to our MP is key, and as a committee, our letter will show our force, with a list of names from our database to show we are 800+ strong already. We plan to have high profile meetings with the councillors very soon and will update you on those.

The Haddon letter is being delivered by hand to Chesterfield signed by all the committee on behalf of the community as a whole, which can be followed up by residents if they wish with their own personal letters of objection.

There have been a number of news reports on the development this week (thanks to Alison for doing such an amazing job), so if you haven’t seen/heard them, please visit our website at http://www.wychwoodvillage.co.uk where you will find links, as well as other updates. We are trying to update the website, twitter feed and Facebook daily, so please make use of them, and if you have any questions, let us know.

Going forward

Sub-groups have been set up for various other areas such as planning/development and environmental. We have found through meetings so far that having key skill-set individuals is invaluable, and our meetings are significantly more productive as a result. These meetings will be stepped up so if there are any individuals out that we haven’t already contacted with key skills they believe may help either of these areas, please get in touch, your input could really help make the difference. We are also looking to build a ‘social/fund-raising’ sub-group, so if you are keen to help arrange community events to raise money for our cause, then please also get in touch. Finally, if any of you take minutes in your job, we really need a minute taker for our community meetings.

You may have noticed a number of posters fixed to fences etc all around the development on your travels (thanks Gemma); these are to request that the community stay off the golf course and stick to the country park. We appreciate it is great to explore a new area, but please just remember that as the golf course returns to nature, we hope wildlife will be further encouraged to the area, and the biggest risk to this is dogs, who not only leave scent tracks alien to many species of animals, they also like to explore in the hedgerows and dig up nests/dens; the wildlife around here is diverse, and you never know, might be a key and valid objection we use against this development proposal.

I hope you can see there is a lot of effort and voluntary hours being spent pulling together our fight against Haddon Property Developments Ltd, and will look to significantly improve the communication with the community over the coming weeks to ensure your fully informed.

Thank you for your continued support & commitment.

Andy Bailey

Didn’t receive this update via email? Make sure you contact us to be added to our mailing list.

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Presentation and notes from Sunday 7 April meeting

Please accept our apologies for the late delivery of the presentation and key notes from Sunday’s public meeting.

Presentation – Sunday 7 April 2013 (pdf 2.3mb)

Key notes – Sunday 7 April 2013 (pdf 0.2mb)

We expect to provide a more conclusive update via email this weekend, so if you don’t already have your details registered with us, please get in touch.

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Access now blocked!

Access to the car park of the Gorstyhill golf club has now been blocked, as promised by Mr Hunt/Haddon’s to Cheshire Police.

Access now blocked!

Whilst there are still small access points, they would be too small for most cars, and certainly should stop any attempts to get caravans in there.

Fortunately the fears of using the unsightly metal construction fences has been disproved and boulders certainly don’t look as bad, but is still the nail in the coffin for the club…at this stage!

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Live on BBC Radio Stoke this morning

Alison Tipping, our PR/Media representative did a live interview on BBC Radio Stoke this morning at 08:05. There has also been a summary in each new bulletin too, which is great exposure.

The interview was great with some very good questions, and Alison did an excellent job on behalf of the committee and residents.

You can listen to the interview by following the link

The key times are 1:00.43 for the news summary, and 1:04.50 for the actual ‘live’ interview itself. There is also additional snippets in the news summary at 1:29.45 and 2:00.40.


Reminder: Do not use the golf course

Just a reminder to residents and locals not to use the golf course. It might seem great having a whole new area to explore, but you may be causing more harm than good.

Naturally the course has always had plenty of footfall over it from golfers, but the latest trend seems to be walking dogs on it. The golf course plays an absolutely vital role in providing wildlife corridors to the diverse number of species we have in the area, and dogs not only go into areas disturbing nests/dens, they also leave scent marks that can have a damaging influence.

We have to hope that with the significant reduction in use of the course, that more wildlife will come to the area; this may not only assist us in a planning objection, but also make for a much better surrounding environment for us and our families to enjoy.

There are also surveys in operation, so don’t disturb these or the potential results they may yield.

Posters have been put up at all access points to remind the community not to trespass, but if you do see anyone using the course, try explaining to them the reasons why we need to protect this area.

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Clarification on traps in sink ponds

A large gasp was raised at the meeting yesterday when someone mentioned that they’ve put traps down in the sink ponds. We’ve also had quite a few emails about it.

Please note that as far as we are aware, Haddon are just carrying out the required survey to trap and count the number of newts etc in the sink ponds. This isn’t an attempt to have them removed from the area in some kind of ‘under the radar’ way.

More information can be found in this handy guide

Naturally we would request you remain vigilant to what takes place, but just remember that no harm is caused by trapping if carried out in accordance with the legal requirement.

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Communicating with the media

As mentioned at yesterday’s meeting a media strategy has been put in place. We need to manage the messages which are being put out in the public domain to try and ensure information remains consistent and accurate. Everything we are stating has been checked, double checked and triple checked as far as we are able to do so and, wherever possible, is backed up by documentation.

Alison (Tipping) explained at the meeting that we need to handle this in the same way as would a company facing a crisis management situation.

For that reason we have nominated three people to be our authorised media spokespeople. They are Andy Bailey (chairman), Trevor Sandry (vice chairman) and Alison Tipping. If you are contacted by the media we ask that you refer the journalist to one of us through the main email address or contact details on the media pack. If you happen to count journalists amongst your friends or family it would be appreciated if you didn’t hold unofficial briefings with them. This is not us trying to be dictatorial, but if lots of different people contact the media then, firstly, the journalists get confused about who they should get in touch with when they want to talk to us and, more importantly, messages and information become inaccurate and get lost in translation.

Our first media pack has gone out today to the local newspapers and radio stations. Parish and Cheshire East councillors will also receive it as will our MP. The R&A and England Golf have asked to be kept updated and the top golf magazines will also receive it.


Feedback from Sunday 7 April 2013 meeting

Thank you to all those who attended our meeting today and the continued support of all residents, locals and golf players in our fight against Mr Hunt/Haddon.

The meeting was very well attended, in excess of 300 turned up to receive updates and future actions.

The meeting went well and the feedback from those residents that have got in touch since was that it was a success. In no small part our thanks to Cheshire East leader, Michael Jones, for making some very clear points and answering many questions.

Michael Jones stated “This is not going to happen. If you don’t want it, the Council will back you 100%.” which was incredibly re-assuring, but this does not mean we can sit back and relax; we must continue to research and take actions to prevent the application being submitted or approved. It is of course great to hear we have the support of Cheshire East, but we have to remain focused.

So what can residents do now? Well we will be looking to send letters on mass to selective parties (different from the original) plan; but other than that, keep feeding information back to us, plus be vigilant of what is going on with the golf club and course itself; reporting any suspicious behaviour to ourselves and where required, the police. Also, start using the country park and public footpaths over the course to make records of any unusual wildlife you see or points of interest, as these may be useful at a later stage; this would be a great wildlife exploration to do with your family. Most importantly, keep communicating with us, and each other, but remember, we have to work with facts, so if you need any points clarifying, let us know.

The committee will now focus on the legal aspect, so if you have any documentation you think we might not have seen, please send to us. Pursuing legal action will of course require money, and lots of it, so keep an eye out for fund raising soon.

Thank you again for your support, we shall be in touch very soon.