EV Zap MapOf all the many issues brought up by the need to get the Moorlands to Net Zero by 2030, EV charging infrastructure is one that excites more attention than most from members of the public – and elected councillors. As the accompanying ZapMap shows EV charging points in the Moorlands are few and far between. Across the country it remains a postcode lottery with those areas of the country nearest the Moorlands much badly served then in the South.

SMDC’s official strategy is to wait for the County to come up with its plan; if that is deemed not acceptable for the Moorlands then a ‘Plan B’ will be rolled out. This involves four public spaces each in Biddulph, Cheadle and Leek. It is fair to say that this strategy was not one that inspired much support in any part of the council chamber when it was unveiled earlier this year. As with other parts of the move towards electrification of daily life, the increase in EV usage will eventually place extra demands on the local electricity network.

As part of our preparation for the Energy Fair, MCA did a substantial amount of research into the state of the network. Large amounts of this information are publicly available, some not and all conclusions are very provisional. It does seem that for the near future, local substations will be able to accommodate demand, including that for EV charging. But substantial investment will be needed to make the local network both more flexible – and robust – in the face of heightened and changing electricity demand.

This is already showing in the local planning system, with application for solar farms and battery storage necessarily being concentrated along the corridor made by the main 400kV power line that runs from North to South through the main Cellarhead substation. These planning decisions are currently being made in a vacuum of information about future electricity needs, including that for transport. MCA believes this is an information gap that could and should be closed.

Slow travel in TransylvaniaWith the gradual relaxation of Covid restrictions in the UK and overseas, many of us are starting to lift our eyes to the horizon and contemplate travel further afield.  Given that we’ve all become used to a slower pace of life and simpler pleasures, slow travel may have a greater appeal than ever before. That appears to have been the experience of many who took to canal holidays during the pandemic, in addition to the more obvious camping and caravanning.  Even if forward motion is slow, the view is still changing and we get to see new places and meet new people, all without flight anxiety or guilt.

Walking is arguably the slowest form of travel but still widely popular, especially as part of pilgrimages, and we in MCA were proud to welcome the Camino to COP pilgrims who walked through Leek on their way to Glasgow last year.  That of course was a walk with a purpose but many walkers now participate in the Camino de Santiago for recreation rather than faith, especially as the route network extends way beyond the confines of France and Northern Spain and at least as far as Denmark and Slovakia.

Cycling is an ideal form of slow travel.  You can travel further in a day seeing more than a walker, while carrying your luggage with less effort.  This makes onward travel more feasible, with less dependence on other people moving your luggage for you by car or van, which rather undermines the low-carbon impact of such travel. Carrying lightweight camping equipment allows even greater independence, especially in countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark that have healthy networks of sites and facilities and where English is almost always spoken.

In the UK, the charity Sustrans is the go-to source for information on routes, with Cycling UK another charity that provides advice and support. A valuable resource for European touring is Eurovelo, the European cycle route network, although the comprehensive cycle lane networks in the countries mentioned above make spontaneous route finding easy if you just want to get from A to B without having to tangle with heavy traffic.  There are also lots of cycle apps available online, although some seem more interested in performance than direction finding.  Nevertheless they are a boon for paper-free navigation, eliminating the need to locate, buy and post home selections of rather heavy paper maps, which is what we had to do in the ‘good’ old days. Having said that, Sustrans does produce some rather good compact maps of the National Cycle Network at a scale of 1:110 000, which is better suited to cyclists’ needs than the OS equivalents.

A great boon with cycles, especially folding ones, is being able to connect with other transport modes.They work perfectly with trains to extend the cyclist’s geographical range, even from Transylvania and beyond, always assuming the trains have adequate cycle storage capacity on board, not always the case in the UK. They also work ideally with ferries of all sizes, from big ro-ro ships to estuary and delta hoppers to tiny ferries that shuttle to and fro all day across a plethora of largish European rivers. They can be identified on most maps and their frequency/continuing existence checked on-line. These are a joy, as some are gorgeously eccentric and mostly easy to access.

Some trains offer slow travel in their own right. Spain still has plenty of regional lines with trains that take you on a leisurely pace through scenic countryside and a new railway company in France will soon be introducing Trains à Grande Lenteur that will travel slowly through the country on little used lines between provincial cities.  The other wonderful form of slow train travel is the night train. These may start and end in major cities but otherwise trundle through towns quite slowly so as not to wake up the residents. They are a wonderfully romantic way to cover huge distances, even though the views may disappoint, being at night. Fortunately there’s lots to see on the very long distance routes, especially in summer. They were in decline before Covid due to the spread of high-speed rail but are now making a comeback.

Finally, no discussion of European train services can be complete without a link to the indispensable site The Man in Seat 61.

Document 20220108 0001Never let it be said that our outgoing chair, Nigel Williams, didn't make his presence felt in the past. This 30 year old cutting reveals how, as Transport spokesperson for North Staffs Friends of the Earth, he believed that traffic congestion and road safety could be improved in the run up to the 21st century. It seems that not much has changed since then but Nigel was speaking with some experience of the infrastructures he was calling for, having lived for several years in Sheffield when the bus service was second to none and a cross-county fare was 10p for an adult (and 2p for a child). The result was low levels of traffic congestion, speedier journeys into town and most families giving up second cars - great for decarbonisation, although that wasn't the issue then. That of course was dependent on having an efficient subsidised bus service (South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive) run by councils that not only had the political will to improve public transport but also the finance to afford it.

Sadly, that is not the case today and certainly not in Staffordshire, where buses are commissioned by the county council and cross-border services between counties are too few to be a realistic option for most potential passengers. In practice, bus services around the county can be a viable option for those with spare time, access to a journey planner app and ideally holding a bus pass. However, they could be so much better and, as in Sheffield in the 1980s, be the first choice for busy people not needing to transport bulky goods.  But that would require commitment from national government to provide support and incentives for counties to commission such services. Would that they followed through on their vague promises! They may have produced a policy now that looks like the one called for by Nigel in 1992 but there is little evidence that they are acting on it. After all, how can an administration dependent on funding from the fossil fuel industry ever take such promises seriously?

They do however claim to promote active travel and a key part of this, apart from the lazy option of just exhorting people to walk and cycle more, would be making roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians. One successful approach to this, and an improvement on chicanes and sleeping policemen, has been the introduction of 20's Plenty zones around schools throughout the country by grass roots organisations. But there is a strong argument for extending these to most residential roads, as is already happening in the UK's larger cities and will be implemented shortly throughout Wales.

Some might argue that such speed limits would make traffic flows unrealistically slow but in reality congestion already does that, although not consistently enough to be safe.  For example, data from the London Assembly show that between 2008 and 2018 average traffic speeds in central London decreased from 8.7 mph to 7.1 mph; in inner London from 12.5 mph to 11.6 mph and in outer London from 20.3 mph to 19.3 mph.

Members of MCA's Transport group are now meeting with 20's Plenty North Staffordshire in the hope of getting more change in the Moorlands but we need more input, as our group is desperately small.  If you would like to join us or help out in any way, do please get in touch via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

IMG 20210606 140504This year’s holiday season in the Peak District National Park may be in sight but a solution to one of its biggest problems seems further away than ever. As more and more people visit the Park, the number of car journeys is climbing relentlessly, with consequent pressure on roads, the availability of parking spaces in villages and last, but certainly not least, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

MCA knows from conversations with the National Park at Board level that trying to encourage the availability and use of public transport and reverse the relentless tide of cars is a priority. We also know that they have struggled to get meaningful engagement on the subject with elected representatives on the Staffordshire side of the Park borders.

And on public transport it really is a tale of two counties. This July, the Hope Valley Explorer started its summer season, following earlier successful pilots. The Stagecoach-operated bus offers a hop-on hop-off service in the Hope Valley. Visitors are encouraged to leave the car behind, take the train from Sheffield or Manchester and join the Hope Valley Explorer at Hope.

Here’s a pared-down list of the attendees: Robert Largan, MP for High Peak, Andrew McCloy, Chair of the Peak District National Park Authority; John Young, Commercial Director of Stagecoach; Sir Richard FitzHerbert, Chair of Marketing Peak District and Derbyshire and many local councillors. Now close your eyes for just one moment: could you imagine a similar line-up for such a sensible and joined-up green travel initiative this side of the county line? No, I didn’t think so.

It’s not that the issue of car use isn’t a pressing one in the Staffordshire villages of the National Park. “Villages in the south Peak are really suffering. It is a tremendous problem,” said Gill Heath, local councillor and the County’s representative on the Peak District National Authority. She was reacting to the August news that the Park was intending to raise charges in its car parks to approach national levels as well as increase the scope of charging and enforcement. Cllr. Heath said the charges would “displace traffic more and more in the villages”.

She’s almost certainly right. But surely at least part of the solution must be to reduce the scale of the problem in the first place – i.e., the fact that for almost all visits into the Staffordshire part of the Park, a car is the only option for many?

EV charge point at Morrisons smIn our last article on green transport possibilities in the Moorlands, we focused on community buses, electric bikes, active transport and car sharing schemes. However, there is another serious possibility - increased use of electric cars, which has had little traction in the this area so far. More than likely that is due to motorists’ “range anxiety”, a legitimate concern, especially to those of us who live in rural areas.

The good news is that moves are afoot to dramatically increase the number of EV charging points in the UK, with Ofgem planning to build infrastructure for 3,550 new ultra-rapid charging points on motorways and in towns, as well as investing in upgrading Britain’s electricity grids. So far so good, but how many EV charging points do we need in the Moorlands? According to Friends of the Earth, there are currently 8 in the Staffordshire Moorlands but there should be 472 to meet the 2030 target set by the Climate Change Committee, the Government’s advisory body. The CCC has a clear vision of how transportation can be decarbonised but their recommendations are not always heeded by Government. So what we can WE do?

There are several approaches we can take, if we want to embrace electric cars now rather than wait until they are forced on us by Government policy and then struggle with the sparse network of EV charging points that may well be the lot of more rural areas.

• Find out more about EV charging and where the charging points are around the country
• Contact our local councillors to persuade the council to have more installed in public places
• Encourage local businesses to have at least one installed on their car parks
• Investigate the possibility of having community-funded chargepoints.

The good news is that there are Government grants available, so we should make our councillors and local businesses aware of them.

If you would like to get together with other MCA members to take a concerted action on this, please do get in touch by e-mailing us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

We can’t leave this topic without congratulating and thanking Cllr Bill Cawley, who has already persuaded Morrisons to install a chargepoint in their carpark, as pictured above. We understand that at least one other councillor is also working on getting a charger installed. May there be many more!

LACMTA Bike Rack with mounted bikeThere are lots of metaphors for lack of progress in the world of travel, such as ‘stuck in the mud’ and ‘up shit creek without a paddle’. No doubt ‘attached to the bank of the Suez Canal’ will become another. This will resonate with MCA members concerned to reduce our travel carbon footprint in the Moorlands – lots of interest, lots of ideas but apparently no coherent plan and definite uncertainty about the roles of different levels of government. At SMDC level even the promising topic of electric vehicles has been moved from their Travel and Transport working group to that of Energy, although that’s no reason that we in MCA’s Transport group can’t continue to push for its promotion.

The problems in the Moorlands are clear: outside the three main towns, there are the issues of isolated houses and settlements limiting the role of bus transport; steep hills restricting the possibilities of cycling as a routine mode of transport, instead of just being a sport, and the location of the district in a northern corner of the county, which militates against effective inter-town travel by bus across county boundaries. Just four buses a day between places like Leek and Macclesfield or Buxton do not make for spontaneous trips, especially when return journeys have to be considered.

However, there are gaps in between some of these clouds and we hope they will continue to widen: