Frequently asked questions.
We have compiled a list of answers to the questions that we get asked most often;
Q: Who are the new owners?
A: A group called 'Phoenix Rose', who claim to be part of a new Freedom Movement, apparently led by one-time celebrity Rachel Elnaugh. They have raised money through a closed crowd-funding scheme via Rachel Elnaugh's website, open only to followers who had to 'invest' a minimum of £20,000. For this they were promised the right to live on and work the land. These 'investors' are controlled by Phoenix Rose. We don't know if any of the members of Phoenix Rose have invested any money. Some of these original 'investors' have now left and the nature of the offer made available to potential new 'investors' changes regularly.
Q: What do they intend to do on the land?
A: They have offered various and conflicting proposals. Sometimes they say they are establishing a self-sustaining, post food-apocalypse eco-community. At other times they refer to it as a working farm. They also suggest a food forest, forest bathing, shamanic retreats... Their initial business plan included nearly £100,000 capital expenditure on moveable structures ( intended to evade the requirement to apply for planning consent ) as well as wind, solar and hydro power installations.
*** None of the plans that they have variously proposed since they took ownership of the land can be done without planning permission ***
Q: You have been accused of not communicating with Phoenix Rose. How do you respond to that?
A: This is not true. We have communicated. Before we discovered their secret plans we were very welcoming. Many people attended a meeting in the Dale having been invited by Phoenix Rose. Unfortunately at that meeting a lot of trust was lost. Phoenix Rose said they had no plans for the Dale and were open to suggestions but they had already sent out prospectuses with very elaborate plans inviting hundreds of people to invest money in the land, camp on it and grow food.
The message that accompanied these plans, which were sent out by email, gave explicit instructions to the recipients to not share them with anyone in Cressbrook. It's no surprise, therefore, that we have an instinctive distrust of them. Sadly this has been reinforced by subsequent acts of dishonesty.
Q: Ok, so that was a bad start. Have there been meetings since then?
A: There have been a lot of informal chats where we've tried to explain our position - that we want to ensure that the land is not harmed - the response has not been positive. Our well-intentioned, calm and rational approaches have resulted in Phoenix Rose calling the police and accusing us of harassment and even calling it a 'hate crime'. Thankfully the police have consistently disabused them of this.
Q: Why didn't someone else buy the land?
A: It was a private arrangement made between the seller - Stanton Estates - and the buyer. The land was not for sale on the open market and never has been.
Q: So were the people in the village given the chance to buy the land ?
A: No. The new owner of Cressbrook Hall was offered some of it and Natural England were offered the SSSI part but that's all. The village were not aware that it was available to be bought and they were never approached.
Q: Doesn't the Peak Park own all of the land?
A: No, the vast majority of the land in the Peak District National Park is owned by private landowners. The reason that it looks so beautiful is that most landowners abide by the regulations set out to protect it. Unfortunately that is not the case with the new owners of the land in and around Cressbrook.
Q: Why shouldn't they be allowed to farm the land?
A: There is abundant farm land in the Peak District so it is unclear why the group have purchased a piece of land which is so clearly unsuitable for the growing of food. This is one of the few remaining precious pieces of wilderness. On the 20 acres not covered by trees, the soil is thin and is ideal for the wildflowers that are already abundant on it and that is reflected in the level of legal protection that the land already enjoys. Only a small amount of research on their part would have shown them just how unsuitable this land is for growing food. The remainder of the land is ancient woodland and is protected by a Tree Preservation Order. Any attempt to 'farm' this land would be catastrophic for its biodiversity.
Q: But it's a farm, isn't it?
A: No. It isn't a farm and it has never been a farm. There are no farm buildings and it is not big enough to be classified as a farm. Calling it a 'farm' doesn't make it a farm or allow agricultural planning regulations to apply. A local farmer has on occasion over-wintered half a dozen cattle on the land at the request of the previous landowner. Half a dozen cattle with supplementary sileage is the most that the meagre offerings of the meadow will support.
Q: But it is 'Good Farm Land', isn't it ?
A: No, it is not 'Good Farm land'.
Here is a link to the DEFRA document that classifies the agricultural potential of land in the East Midlands region
The following diagram is a map of the area around the Wye Valley local to Cressbrook taken from the DEFRA map, accompanied by the part of the key for the map that explains the colour grading used by DEFRA in their assessment of land potential.
This diagram shows the position on the OS map of the land that Phoenix Rose propose to develop as 'Good Farming Land'.
This image overlays the DEFRA land assessment onto the OS map, keeping the area of proposed development highlighted. The site that Phoenix Rose describes as 'Good Farming Land' is assessed by DEFRA as Grade 5 - 'Very Poor'. All of the land in Cressbrook Dale is assessed as 'Very Poor'.
The site Phoenix Rose has acquired comprises two areas. There is a field of roughly 20 acres ( 20 acres of 'Good Farm Land' is enough to support 4-5 people ) that they propose to develop agriculturally. It is located on the west side of a steeply sloping limestone gorge. It is a post-industrial site that has emerged in the last 70 years after centuries of lead mining on the site. A small part of the field is reasonably level but the remainder slopes steeply east, north-east and north. The field itself, including all of the reasonably level parts therein, comprises almost entirely Access Land, which is publicly accessible. The land is also crossed by 4 public footpaths. Turning it to agriculture would be very difficult and harmful to what is already there, which is depleted grassland. It is also counter-intuitive. Why destroy something that is perfectly suited for the site - the wildflower meadow - when attempting to carve out a new purpose which will inevitably fail. It is a futile endeavour.
The remainder of the site is roughly 30 acres of highly protected Ancient Woodland that is covered by a Group Tree Preservation Order. The woodland is not classified as farmland as it is not put to any uses that would qualify it as such.
So - No, this is not 'Good Farming Land'
Q: Is this a scam?
A: We don't know, but we do know from the prospectuses that we have read that 'investors' appear to have very little say in what is done with the land but all of the liability should fines and penalties be incurred. All of the land is heavily protected and nothing can be done on it without planning permission. The group's proposals to potential investors include features (like solar and hydro) that can never be legally delivered on without planning permission.
Q: I invested in this scheme but have now withdrawn from it. How can I help stop others from being misled about it as I was?
A: We are also concerned about people being persuaded to part with large sums of money on the basis of a promise that cannot be fulfilled. Please get in touch with us. Hopefully, by working together, we can prevent other people from committing their savings to a project which is doomed to failure.
Q: Are there toilet facilities on the land?
A: No. Two toilet tents, enclosing moveable compost toilets were erected. Rachel Elnaugh confessed on a video that she had removed the contents and put them in her own waste bin at home. Other suspected bags of toilet waste were found partially buried in the woods. Waste from compost toilets should not be buried here as the bedrock is limestone which is permeable meaning the waste would find its way into the water system. Human waste from the occupation of the caravan was also disposed of on the site.
Q: Did you make the 'Hate Rachel Dale' flyers?
A: Absolutely not. It is very clear from the tone of the flyer that it is not the product of our campaign or from anyone within the village of Cressbrook.
Q: If not your campaign, then who?
A: The 'Hate Rachel Dale' flyers appeared on cars in the village on Saturday 17th September 2022. At the same time, Rachel Elnaugh announced on her Telegram channel that the 'village' had created these. Rachel Elnaugh's son was observed placing the flyers on village residents' cars and Rachel Elnaugh gave one of these flyers to a passerby in front of our marshals. It therefore seems very likely that Rachel Elnaugh is the author.
Q: Are they eco-warriors?
A: No. They have already put three lorry loads of gravel and plastic matting on the land to create a car park. They are the opposite of eco-warriors.
Q: Are they conspiracy theorists?
A: If you search for Rachel Elnaugh, their self-appointed leader, using a search engine on the internet you will see that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that Rachel Elnaugh is a conspiracy theorist. Among other things she believes that those of us who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 have actually had a microchip put into us by the injection. The microchips will be activated by 5G mobile phone networks at some point in the future and kill the people carrying them. The purpose of this genocide is to depopulate the planet. However their beliefs are not our concern- it's their actions and their proposed actions which concern us.
Q: Did they help with the Cressbrook well dressing?
A: No, They did not. They did however appropriate an image of the well dressing - and continue to appropriate it for their marketing material - without seeking the permission of the artist, using the phrase 'Cressbrook Welcomes Everyone' to make it look as if they'd formed good relations in the village. This was definitely not the case. When her ideas about creating a food forest were rationally challenged on social media Rachel Elnaugh responded very negatively, likening our rejection of her proposals to 'WAR'. This is a great shame. Because of the duplicity and animosity we are now much less trusting of people we see in the village than we were before. However the support we've had for our campaign has gone some way to restoring our faith in human nature.
Q: Did Rachel Elnaugh write 'Behind the View'?
A: No. She did not. She did, however, appropriate this award winning community produced book in one of her marketing videos despite the clearly asserted copyright of the authors on Page 4 of the book.
Q: Are there any locals involved in Phoenix Rose project?
A: There’s no-one from Cressbrook involved in Phoenix Rose. We are not sure who all the 'investors' are as, for some unknown reason, some of them have used pseudonyms. Potential 'investors' were sent promotional material which specifically instructed them not to share the information with people in the village. Once the 'investment' opportunity was discovered by the people in the village they were unanimous in condemning it, as has been the case with everyone else we've spoken to from the local area.
Q: What is your role in all of this?
A: Because of the current owners' continued failure to comprehend and recognise the natural value of the asset under their control we are driven to defend it. We will continue to monitor, report and campaign for as long as it takes to ensure that the land is in safe hands.
Q: Are you worried?
A: Yes. We are worried - as are the many people from surrounding villages and also the many tourists, walkers and cyclists we've spoken to. The fact that the group’s self appointed leader has publicly stated that they do not recognise, and are not subject to, this country’s legal system is, among many other things, very worrying.
We need your support.
Q: What can I do?
A: There is a 'What we would like you to do' section on the front page of this web site. Please have a read. Of course, we're always open to suggestions as well.