CHAPEL-EN-LE-FRITH NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN –SUPPORTING EVIDENCE
A Description of the Existing Built Environment of the Parish
History, Setting and Basics
‘Chapel-en-le-Frith was founded almost eight centuries ago, when local foresters built a chapel in the Royal Forest of the Peak (a ‘chapel-en-le-frith’). The ancient buildings and monuments in the parish are rich in post-Conquest history and evidence of even earlier habitation is to be found in the beautiful surrounding hills. The parish contains a Neolithic earthwork, one of the earliest tramways in the country, reminders of the rise of Nonconformism, a factory founded by a great inventor, and it was the scene of a particularly gruesome episode in the seventeenth century.’
This brief history of the parish is taken from ‘The Book of Chapel-en-le-Frith’ by Mike Smith (published by Halsgrove 2003).
The parish is conveniently situated only about 20 miles south-east of Manchester and a similar distance west of Sheffield, and is within the Borough of High Peak. With the large conurbations of Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire, and also the motorway system, being so far away, it is a challenge to attract new employers to the area.
The parish has a population of 9270 living in 3610 households, the majority within the town of Chapel-en-le-Frith itself, with others in the villages and hamlets of Dove Holes, Sparrowpit, Combs, Tunstead Milton and Whitehough. (See Appendix EX1) Only about 28% of the working population are employed within the parish, with many of the remainder working in the nearby town of Buxton or commuting to Greater Manchester by car or train.
Over half of the area of the parish is within the Peak District National Park, the boundary to which abuts the eastern end of the town. Another part of the National Park within the parish is to the south of Combs. With severe restrictions on development in the National Park, and also within the Green Belt which encroaches slightly into the northern side of the parish, there are tremendous development pressures on the remainder of the parish.
The Road System (See Appendix EX1)
The main road through the parish is the A6, which is a primary route and passes through Dove Holes after entering the parish from Buxton to the south. Continuing north, it passes around the north side of Chapel in a westerly direction as a dual carriageway by-pass, leaving the parish heading for New Mills, Stockport and Manchester.
The other A-class roads in the parish are the A623 and A624. The former leads to Tideswell and Chesterfield whilst the latter is to Chapel Milton, Hayfield and Glossop. The B5470 also has a junction with the A6 at the eastern end of Chapel, from which it runs westwards forming the main street of the town, and then on to Tunstead Milton, Whaley Bridge and Macclesfield.
Chapel Town Centre (See Appendix EX2)
The main street through the town centre is about 750 metres in length, commencing at Town End at the eastern end of the town and initially named Market Street as far as the Market Place. It then becomes High Street for a short distance before changing to Manchester Road as it leaves the town centre at its western end.
The Market Place is just off Market Street at the top of a hill and is the historic core of the town, the Market Place itself and the adjacent part of Market Street forming a Conservation Area. The Market Place is the focal point of the town and is both special and very important. The thirteenth century St Thomas a Becket Parish Church is at one end and the square is surrounded by many public houses which owe their origins to Chapel being a halt midway across the Peak District on stage coach routes. Many visitors are attracted to the town by this historic core, and it has the potential to provide the basis for an enhanced tourism sector based partly on the town’s heritage.
There are two supermarkets within the town centre and a wide range of quality independent shops, 61 in total, together with a significant number of restaurants, cafes and public houses. Whilst the shops and other facilities are found throughout the comparatively long length of the main street, there are two concentrations. Firstly they are on and near to the historic Market Place, including the Co-op supermarket. Secondly there is a parade of shops on Thornbrook Road, close to which is the large Morrisons supermarket. Shops then continue on this part of Market Street to Town End.
The main street is mainly lined with buildings that are at the back of the footway and the road itself is narrow in places, which together with the existence of two Conservation Areas, would make it very difficult to carry out road improvements, for example, to improve the capacity of junctions to cater for increases in traffic.
A second indentified problem is that the town centre is long and thin, so some walking is necessary for many shopping trips. Should you wish to do a big shop (i.e. too much to carry) by using the independent shops rather than the supermarkets, you will have to find parking spaces in at least two separate places and drive between them, and this disadvantage is therefore a threat to the trade of the smaller shops.
Employment, Tourism and Local Facilities (See Appendix EX2)
The largest employer in the town with almost 500 employees is Federal Mogul located on Hayfield Road. The factory, which is currently undergoing a £10M modernisation programme, makes friction products for the automotive and rail industries under the Ferodo brand. Other large employers include Street Crane (crane manufacturers), Chapel High School, Morrisons and High Peak Buses, the latter based at Dove Holes.
Industry is concentrated at the eastern end of the town. Apart from the Federal Mogul site, there are recently constructed industrial estates at Bowden Hey Road and Frith Knoll Road, and industry on Sheffield Road. All of these are adjacent to junctions on the A6 bypass so that lorries to and from the sites do not generally have to pass through the town, so minimising the nuisance that lorries often cause, although several lorry operators are based within the town and many lorries come into the town centre to refuel.
Of the other local facilities, the Primary School is on Warmbrook Road and the High School on Long Lane, with a leisure centre on the same site. There are health centres on Eccles Road and Thornbrook Road, and the Memorial Park is in the centre of the town on Rowton Grange Road.
Chapel promotes itself as the ‘Capital of the Peak’ and its location close to conurbations, with the historical heritage and surrounding quality landscape, has generated a modest tourism industry. It has the potential to serve as a base for visits to the Peak District National Park, and also as a stopping off point when travelling to and from the National Park.
Chapel-en-le-Frith Parish is fortunate in having a network of fine footpaths in the countryside, shown in Appendix EX3, linked together by quiet lanes and near to the built up areas. This extensive network of footpaths and fine walks, which are readily accessible by walkers from the town and offer fine views of the attractive landscape, has allowed walking into the countryside to be an important recreational activity for, and is highly valued by, many local people and attracts many visitors to the area.
The town itself also has a useful network of urban footpaths (or ginnels) that offer convenient links for pedestrians from residential areas to the town centre and other local facilities. These are shown in Appendix EX4. Paths through the Memorial Park also offer short cuts for pedestrians. The town is a compact settlement so walking and also cycling are easy options for regular local journeys.
The historic Peak Forest Tramway runs through the parish but only some sections of it are available for the public to enjoy for walking. The section westwards from Charley Lane through Whitehough and on out of the parish towards Buxworth is the only part that is designated as a footpath or bridleway.
Whilst relatively few local people use a bike to go about their daily business, such as travelling to and from work, the hilly nature of the terrain presents a challenge to the most energetic of recreational cyclists, including many off-road riders and elite cyclists. The Great Britain Cycling Team makes use of the area for training.
The section of the Peak Forest Tramway west from Charley Lane is also available for use by cyclists and connects at Whaley Bridge with the Pennine Cycleway (NCN 68) that runs alongside the Peak Forest Canal at that point and offers a long distance off-road cycle route both to the north into Greater Manchester and south into the National Park
The Pennine Bridleway National Trail crosses Sheffield Road four kilometres east of Chapel and in a southerly direction links with the Monsal Trail. Whilst this route is mainly of value for recreational cycling, the Peak Forest Tramway and NCN 68 offer easy recreational cycling, being fairly flat, and are also useful for commuting.
All of these long distance routes are also available for walkers and equestrians and form part of the Derbyshire Greenway network. In addition, Derbyshire County Council has recently been awarded a special Government grant to upgrade parts of the Greenway network to the south of Buxton, specifically to make it more attractive to cyclists. There are no dedicated facilities for cyclists within Chapel itself.
Pedestrian Crossings (See Appendix EX2)
There are four Puffin crossings on the main street within the shopping area, which is a relatively good provision. Three of these are however concentrated between Town End and Thornbrook Road, with no pedestrian crossing facilities at all over the 400 metre length between Thornbrook Road and the Market Place, which is especially busy with pedestrian activity.
Parking (See Appendix EX2)
There are six off-street car parks serving the town centre, two of which are attached to the supermarkets and are intended for their customers. Uncontrolled parking takes place on the setted area of the Market Place, which is detrimental to the Conservation Area status of this historic core of the town and prevents the Market Place being an attractive focal point of the town. All of these six car parks are uncontrolled with no time limits and are free.
Parking is also permitted on parts of Market Street and some nearby side roads, most of these spaces being limited to forty minutes or one hour during the working day and intended for the use of shoppers.
There are 412 parking spaces in total in the town centre, as listed below. A full inventory of parking spaces can be found at Appendix EX5.
Chapel DIY (public part) 10 (High Peak Borough Council)
Miry Meadow 31 (High Peak Borough Council)
Market Place 17
Thornbrook Road 37 (High Peak Borough Council)
There is very little signing to car parks for visitors, and with the car parking stock being uncontrolled and largely consisting of small areas, apart from Morrisons, a good deal of searching for spaces is often required at peak times. Unfortunately there is no coherent parking strategy. There are also a large number of residential properties in the town centre, almost all of which have no curtilage parking space, so that residents’ cars occupy some of the 412 spaces.
The parking on one side of parts of the main street generally leaves enough space for the two directions of moving traffic to pass, albeit at a reduced speed, but when a large vehicle appears in one or both directions, shuttle working operates, so causing some congestion. The parking therefore often acts as an effective speed reducing measure, this aim being reinforced by some footway build-outs that have been provided as part of the same traffic management scheme. These also have the benefit of improving visibility for drivers turning out of some side roads, by allowing the give way line to be further forward so drivers can see around buildings and parked cars better, and similarly helping pedestrians to cross by allowing them to stand where they can also see better around parked cars.
The other main causes of congestion are (a) vehicles positioning to turn right off the main street at a junction, holding up the following traffic; (b) the overflow of queuing vehicles from Morrisons filling station on to the road outside, blocking the mini-roundabout completely sometimes; and (c) traffic stopping for pedestrian crossings.
The Villages and Hamlets
Some delightful hamlets are to be found within the parish with some small communities, including Blackbrook and Bagshaw, tucked into the hills of the Dark Peak. Chapel Milton sits on the A624 to the north of Chapel under twin curving railway viaducts, which are great monuments from the railway age, and Tunstead Milton is a picturesque hamlet between Chapel and Whaley Bridge on the B5470. The other villages are described below.
The largest village is Dove Holes which sits astride the A6 midway between Chapel and Buxton. Unfortunately for its size, it has no shop. It does however have a wide range of other local facilities including a primary school, churches, public houses, a large cricket ground and other sports facilities, together with a thriving community association with a village hall, and is also the venue for an annual jazz festival. It has a large number of employment opportunities for its size, with two small industrial estates and a large quarry.
The A6 through the village carries a heavy traffic flow, drivers sometimes being delayed by a vehicle ahead waiting to turn right off the main road. The village is also the site of a Neolithic earthwork known as the Bull Ring. This ancient monument consists of a platform surrounded by a ditch and encircling ramparts. Although it has lost all its stones, the Bull Ring has identical dimensions to the Arbor Low stone circle, eleven miles to the south-west.
Whitehough is a quiet hamlet that shelters in a deep valley below Chinley Churn, and is in fact joined to the larger village of Chinley which is in an adjoining parish. Its picturesque cottages and two inns, the Old Hall and the Printers Arms, are clustered around the Elizabethan Old Hall.
The hamlet of Combs occupies an idyllic location between the gritstone ridge of Combs Moss and Combs Reservoir. Its houses are scattered about a road that follows the eastern shore of the lake on its way to the welcoming Beehive Inn, and it also has an infants school. The lake is the feeder reservoir for the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge.
Sparrowpit is a one-street village strung along a ridge that marks the watershed of England. Almost all of the houses line one side of the street which is over 1000 feet above sea level. The village retains its Methodist Church and has a public house, the Wanted Inn.
Chapel railway station is located in open country about 1.5 kilometres south-west of the town centre, convenient only for those that live on this side of the town. The access road to the station is poor, being a fairly narrow country lane with no footway for pedestrians over much of its length. There are 22 car parking spaces provided at the station, which are often all occupied. The distance from most of the housing means that many passengers are dropped off or collected at the station by partners or friends.
Trains run from here at hourly intervals at most times of the day, and half-hourly at peak periods, to Buxton, Stockport and Manchester. There is also a station on this line at Dove Holes, but only alternate trains stop here. The trains are often over-crowded at peak times on their journeys closer to Manchester. There is also a freight line running through the parish, passing through the long- closed Chapel Central Station. Its main function is to transport products from quarries in the Buxton area, successfully reducing the number of lorries on the road compared to twenty or thirty years ago.
Buses (See Appendix EX6)
The main bus route is the 199 Skyline, which provides an excellent service to Buxton in one direction, also serving Dove Holes and Peak Dale, and to Tunstead Milton, Whaley Bridge, New Mills, Stockport and Manchester Airport in the other. This runs every half-hour during the daytime and hourly in the early morning (commencing at about 4 am), evening and on Sundays. The TransPeak limited stop service from Manchester to Derby and Nottingham runs four or five times a day following the A6 through the parish. Its only stop is in Dove Holes, the service not passing through Chapel itself, apart from one journey in each direction per day.
Other bus services have regrettably been reduced recently following reductions in government subsidies and this situation will certainly provide a challenge to maintaining public transport services to outlying rural areas in future. There are only two other regular services, apart from those that operate only at school times. The 190 runs every two hours during the daytime Monday to Saturday to Chapel Milton, Chinley and Buxworth in one direction, and Sparrowpit, Peak Forest, Peak Dale, Waterswallows and Buxton in the other. The 200 runs a couple of times a day to Edale and Castleton. There are no bus services at all to Combs and Whitehough and the 199 is the only service that serves the Market Place area and the western end of Chapel itself.
- EX1 Chapel Parish – Setting and Transport System
- EX2 Chapel Town – Existing Principal Land Uses
- EX3 Chapel Parish – Rural Footpaths and Trails
- EX4 Chapel Town – Urban Footpaths and Walking Routes
- EX5 Chapel Town Centre – Inventory of Car Parking Spaces
- EX6 Chapel Parish – Existing Bus Routes