Mansfield quarry development will 'decimate' nature reserves - says conservation group
More than 200 homes could be built on a neglected Mansfield quarry site – but residents and conservation groups say they are ‘very concerned’ over key elements of the new development.
The former Gregory Quarry has been earmarked for ‘high quality’ new homes and apartments as well as open spaces, landscaped habitats, water features and a family play area.
Since quarrying ended at the site several years ago, it has been left vacant and blighted by drug abuse and other criminal activity.
But Lee O’Connor, whose family operated the working stone quarry, has worked with specialist consultants to create plans for a scheme sympathetic to re-purpose the now-redundant land.
“Following extensive talks with council planning officers, environmental consultants and working in close collaboration with local architects, we have created a scheme which aims to take this redundant stone quarry and transform it into an exceptional residential environment which both embraces ecology and the needs of the wider community,” he said.
“Having owned and operated the site for almost 20 years we are emotionally invested in ensuring that its evolution from a working stone quarry into the next chapter of its story is achieved without compromise.
“The proposed design will provide safe open spaces and routes where pedestrians and cyclists have priority, with cars restricted to dedicated off street parking.
“This project is about designing a seamless transition between the natural and the residential environment.”
Following extensive consultation, they say the proposals have taken on board environmental concerns – aiming to deliver an important biodiversity element to the project with the introduction of bird nesting, bat roosts, other wildlife features and an overall biodiversity net gain.
However, many residents in the area and conservation groups say parts of the development would ruin the current nature reserve – which is home to hundreds of species of wildlife and has become a popular beauty spot during the pandemic.
The project claims it will open up and improve accessibility to the path situated on the old railway viaduct and provide safe access into and around the local nature reserve.
But this is the key element of the project which the Maun Conservation Group objects to, alongside more than 400 written objections which have been received since the plans were announced in 2017.
Tim Spurry has spoken to Chad on behalf of the conservation group which currently oversees the area.
He says he wants to make it clear his group does not oppose the whole plan, simply some key elements which it thinks requires further investigation.
“We want to make it clear; we do not oppose the housing development as a whole,” he said.
"We do, however, have an issue with the intended access road plans – it will completely obliterate the nature reserve both during the lengthy construction phase and beyond.
"What is currently a haven for wildlife, including water voles which are protected, will be decimated by the new bridge and access route."
The group has appealed to project developers to reconsider the plans and suggest an alternative route is sought, away from the already-congested Quarry Lane area.
"The plan states the development will improve Quarry Lane by widening the current road, however the bottleneck will always be where cars pass under the viaduct, which can’t be changed – add the traffic from another 200 houses to the current congestion, and it doesn’t bear thinking about,” said Mr Spurry.
Mr O’Connor has sought to allay fears over any damage caused to the environment by the development – saying he is committed to delivering a minimum 10 per cent biodiversity net gain.
“With the specific biodiversity net gain linked to this development, the local authority will have cash made available for programmes such as tree planting, cleaning and improving river quality.” he said.
“There will always be differences of opinion but with this project change is most certainly for the good and ultimate benefit of Mansfield ”
And while the conservation group appreciates the cash will be used for such projects, it feels the true cost to the local nature reserve would far outweigh the benefits of environmental improvements being made elsewhere in the district.
Mr Spurry continues: “The current nature reserve is extremely popular – the Maun Conservation Group currently work with local schools which are within walking distance to use the area as an outdoor classroom. The children love coming down here to look at wildlife.
"This simply won’t be able to happen once the new road is built and traffic increases, so what benefit would it be for them?
”There is also a well-used cycle path already running alongside the reserve so, again, they are destroying something unnecessarily with the promise of rebuilding one, and using the money elsewhere.
"The access road needs to be re-routed to save this green space and limit the impact of this development.”
There is also concern the quarry still contains a large amount of Mansfield stone, which was used over the years to create some of the town’s most important buildings which still stand today.
Historians are now seeking confirmation this will not be disposed of during the development amid fears repairs of such buildings in future could be in jeopardy.
Historic England says it was ‘disappointed' its concerns had not been addressed in its previous comments on the application from 2018.
David Walsh, principal inspector of historic buildings and areas for Historic England, said: “We are disappointed that the amended application does not address in any way the concerns we raised in our letter in 2018.
"Mansfield White stone is an important historic building stone and has been used for well over 700 years and received national recognition.
"Gregory Quarry contains the last remaining source in the country, and we urge the authority to take into account the importance of securing access to this stone.”
The plans are due to go before Mansfield District Council’s planning committee later this year.