Councillors unhappy with Mansfield quarry application despite approval

Councillors have approved retrospective plans to regulate the extraction of more than half a million tonnes of sand at a former Mansfield quarry and to place the land into a 20-year aftercare scheme.

By Andrew Topping
Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 7:01 am

However, concerns were raised about allowing the permission retrospectively, with the sand extracted almost six years ago ‘without the benefit of permission’.

Mansfield Sand Company brought the application before Nottinghamshire Council’s planning and rights of way committee.

The application involved retrospectively allowing the extraction of 558,000 tonnes of silica sand from Ratcher Hill Quarry, in work which concluded on-site in January 2016.

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The entrance to Ratcher Hill Quarry.

At that time, Mansfield Sand had planned its move to Two Oaks Quarry, near Kirkby, with resources ‘exhausted’ at Ratcher Hill after more than 50 years of quarrying.

But several members of the committee raised concerns about the permission being sought retrospectively – with some suggesting it ‘undermines the planning system’.

Conversations and informal agreements had been made between the applicant and Nottinghamshire Council for the sand to be extracted, but no official permission was granted until now.

Members were told there was a delay in Mansfield Sand acquiring this permission, resulting from issues with the then-emerging Mansfield Local Plan.

County council officers sought ‘ecological enhancements’ on-site following the removal from the plan of on-site industrial land.

This delay, councillors were told, has also meant missing out on an ‘ecologically superior’ restoration scheme and the loss of planned heathland once work is complete.

Coun Andre Camilleri, who represents Mansfield South, said: “Mansfield Sand should have got us involved. If they knew planning permission was going to run out they should have sought it, and if we knew it was running out, we should have done something.

“I’m disappointed but not surprised.”

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Explanation

Coun Philip Owen said: “There’s no explanation as to whether a new application or an extended application could have been put in to extend, as we’ve got now, retrospective permission, but we could have also had the benefits of a better restoration.

“This is a complete mess and I’m extremely unhappy. There are certainly lessons that need to be learned.”

Documents published by the council state Mansfield Sand extracted the material ‘to ensure business continuity and to maintain supplies’ at a time when its Two Oaks site had not yet entered operation.

Mark Oldridge, for Mansfield Sand, confirmed the company employs 87 full-time staff, of which 41 jobs rely on the sand extraction process.

He told the meeting: “It’s a very unfortunate situation, I’m not particularly pleased with having to make a retrospective application.

“Lessons have been learned, we’re in complete discussion at all times now with the professional officers of the council regarding Two Oaks Quarry.

“Two Oaks has a long life, but we will be looking in the future to replace it with another site.

“My part in the future is to ensure this never happens again.”

The planning permission, approved unanimously, requires Mansfield Sand to outline a 20-year aftercare scheme for the quarry by the end of February.

Restoration works to re-engineer the topography of the site and regrade the northern quarry face must be undertaken by May 31, 2022, before the site is entered into aftercare no later than June 1.

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