Development at Berry Hill Quarry in Mansfield 'should not have taken place without stablisation', review into landslip finds
No development at the former Berry Hill Quarry site in Mansfield should have been permitted without stabilisation of the quarry face, an independent review into last year’s landslip has found.
On November 7, 2019, after days of heavy rain, the cliff slope became unstable and some fell into the gardens of properties on Bank End Close and Stone Bank in Berry Hill Quarry.
As a result, 32 homes were evacuated, with residents from 19 homes unable to return for two weeks, while Mansfield council assembled a team of specialist consultants to deliver emergency remedial works that involved clearing 1,300 tonnes of debris that had slipped away from the cliff face.
Now an independent review of the planning process and ongoing maintenance of the cliff face has concluded with a summary report being published.
Carried out by experienced former public sector solicitor and independent legal consultant, Jayne Francis-Ward, the findings of the report outline a series of learning points regarding the development of housing in proximity to the cliff face.
Mansfield District Council Chief Executive Hayley Barsby said the landslip had raised ‘many questions regarding the development at the Berry Hill Quarry site from the residents, the public and our own elected members.’
“Although our geotechnical experts concluded that the landslip was caused by extreme climatic conditions, it was important to review the process and be clear on whether the council had acted appropriately since approving the planning application,” she said.
In her report, Ms Francis-Ward acknowledges that the lengthy history of the site meant that not all of her initial questions could be answered fully, and that the majority of senior officers who oversaw the planning and legal processes were no longer with the authority.
Her main conclusions show that the council had acted ‘reasonably’ in granting the outline planning permission for the former Berry Hill Quarry site, and, that in the four technical reports received at the date of adoption, there was no anticipation of major landslips in the quarry area.
However with hindsight she concluded that stabilisation works or detailed reports on the stability of the cliff face should have been sought earlier, that alternative proposals should have been considered relating to long-term maintenance of the cliff face and cliff top, and that the recommendations made by Halcrow should have been expedited.
The report states: “If this (stabilisation) had not been possible, at a minimum, a full report on the issue of the stability of the quarry face should have been obtained prior to the granting of the outline planning permission.”
Her review makes several recommendations to the council including improved programme management, and sufficient funding for maintenance.
It adds: “In the future no land should be adopted by the council without full consideration of the potential legal and financial implications of adoption being fully understood and proper due diligence taking place PRIOR to any adoption.”
Responding to the report, Hayley Barsby said: “I’d like to thank Ms Francis-Ward for her open and honest appraisal of the Berry Hill case.
"I’d also like to say thank you to the residents of the Berry Hill area for their patience regarding this matter.
“One thing is very clear, we must learn from this and ensure that there is no repeat of such an incident in the district.”
The council said a contractor has been appointed to deliver a project comprising of mesh and pegs across the cliff face and a toe wall at the foot of the cliff, as recommended by the council’s geotechnical consultants.You can view the report on the council’s website.