By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
Councillors in Mansfield have refused plans to build up to 204 homes on a former stone quarry described by conservationists as the town’s “little gem”.
But the green light has been given to separate plans in a different quarry, provided developers can outline stability works on a nearby cliff-face.
The 204-home plans, at Gregory Quarry, proposed building the properties on land split between the old quarry site and the popular nearby Quarry Lane Nature Reserve.
However, Mansfield District Council’s planning department had recommended refusal of the scheme due to its potential impact on the environment.
The development, which is not allocated as part of the authority’s local plan, was deemed to negatively impact designated wildlife and offered an “inability to protect” the nature reserve.
Concerns were also raised by Nottinghamshire County Council over the access proposals, with the council viewing that developers had “grossly underestimated” the costs of providing suitable access to the homes.
The main entry point for the development would have been from Quarry Lane, allowing vehicles to access the houses from the point previously used when it was a stone quarry.
However, councillors heard concerns about roads including Quarry Lane and Sheepbridge Lane becoming a “pinch point”, with the county council saying the developers were offering “unsatisfactory access arrangements”.
Mansfield District Council’s planning committee also heard on Monday (July 5) that the scheme received 394 objections from members of the public.
Concerns included its potential adverse impact on local wildlife, the loss of a nature reserve, loss of recreation and because the houses were not allocated in the council’s local plan.
Councillor Robert Elliman, who represents Oakham for the Conservatives, gave a speech calling for the development to be refused.
He said: “I have spoken and listened to many residents’ concerns. This is not a case of nimbyism, the proposed access will seriously damage the Quarry Lane Nature Reserve which is one of very few green spaces in Mansfield.
“Residents are already struggling locally with the volume of traffic, we have the problematic Sainsbury’s junction which causes issues for most residents. Sheepbridge Lane onto Quarry Lane is already heavily congested and a pinch point due to the viaduct.
“This development does not form part of the local plan, takes away green space and therefore should be rejected.”
The meeting also heard a speech from Tim Spurry, of the Maun Conservation Group, who said the development would “use and destroy” the nature reserve.
He said: “This application fails dramatically on its access route and the destruction of a significant part of Mansfield’s Quarry Lane nature reserve.
“It wishes to use and destroy highly valued green space.
“The local nature reserve is known for its rich variety of wildlife including some rare and protected species.
“The proposed access route into Gregory Quarry will cut the local nature reserve in half and so significantly dissect and interrupt this vitally important corridor for people and wildlife. It would ruin Mansfield’s little gem.”
Councillors on the committee unanimously voted on Monday to refuse the proposals, wanting to put a “strong report” together to ensure the plans do not return in the future.
However, despite refusing the Gregory Quarry proposals, councillors at the same meeting approved a separate 73-home development at a different disused Mansfield quarry.
The plans, on Sandhurst Avenue, will bring a mixture of properties including bungalows to the land and will use the same quarry access route.
It comes in conjunction with a previously approved planning application to demolish an existing site office.
Councillors on the committee raised their concerns following the two landslips at Bank End Close, in Berry Hill, in 2019 and 2020, which caused residents to be evacuated from their homes.
Councillor Andy Sissons, independent member for Newgate, called for “due consideration” following the Berry Hill collapses.
He said: “I think we should make particular notice about members’ concerns of the quarry wall, with recent events we’ve all got in mind.
“Obviously the distance between the dwellings and the wall is of huge importance, I just think we can’t stress enough that due consideration is put in place.”
The meeting heard that properties in the development will not be based near a nearby cliff-face, preventing rubble from falling into gardens due to a buffer zone.
A spokesperson for the authority’s planning department also told councillors that the current landowner holds responsibility for any future cliff works.
Developers must submit details about how they will maintain the slope, with proposals on strengthening the quarry sides subject to detailed planning submissions.
The development was unanimously passed by the committee.