Mansfield campaigners jubilant as housing plan refused - but developers announce appeal in ongoing quarry row
Environmental campaigners are celebrating after proposals for 204 homes to be built on a disused quarry next to a popular nature reserve have been refused, but developers have confirmed an appeal will follow.
The proposal for Gregory’s Quarry had seen a mammoth 394 objections since its initial application was announced in 2017, and environmental campaigners had voiced their concerns that the proposed access route would ‘decimate’ the adjacent nature reserve.
During Mansfield District Council’s planning meeting on July 5, it was announced that, whilst the development to provide high quality new homes and apartments had been under consideration for a number of years, that there had been ‘significant opposition’ to the application.
Case Officer Ray Deans explained: “There have been a considerable number of objections to the scheme, with concerns over adverse effects on local wildlife, loss of the local nature reserve, landscape impact and also the risk of collapse and rock fall.
"In terms of key consultee responses, the local highway authority considers that the access costs may be grossly underestimated – the Quarry Lane access plan is a complex engineering project, requiring significant earth works.
“The retaining wall would be large and visually significant, and there are unknown costs associated with the acquisition of the land rights of three different land owners.”
"This is leading to concerns on viability and that the development could commence to be built without suitable access being able to be achieved.”
Committee members voted unanimously to refuse the application – which was met with relief by environmental campaigners – however the applicants have announced today that they would seek to appeal the decision.
Lee O’Connor, whose family operated the quarry for 20 years and who was behind the development plans said: “We had made clear to the planning department that we found significant flaws in their reasoning for refusal and, ultimately, the application remains extremely robust and in our opinion very likely to succeed at appeal.
“Both the planning department and committee members were all made well aware of our concerns with the reasons given for refusal and were equally aware that, in the outcome of a refusal at committee, we would immediately precede forward with appeal.”
Mr O’Connor says that the benefit of appeal is that there will be a ‘far greater emphasis on a balanced view’ of the pros and cons plus ‘actual facts supported by evidence rather than conjecture’.
Tim Spurry from Maun Conservation Group spoke of his concerns at the planning meeting, and says he was ‘delighted’ at the news that committee members had voted to refuse the application.
He said in the meeting: “This application fails, rather dramatically, on its access route and the destruction of a significant part of Mansfield’s Quarry Lane Local Nature Reserve.
“Quarry Lane LNR is a vitally important ecological and green space, made incredibly special by the fact that it is less than one kilometre from the centre of Mansfield and areas of significant deprivation.
"The LNR is an ecological safe haven and an important ecological corridor through Mansfield.
"People use the route for walking or cycling, for their physical and mental health and to travel to and from work, along with local children using it for education purposes.”
As committee members voted for the application to be refused, Mr Spurry spoke to the Chad at his relief over the decision.
He said: “We are delighted that council members have recognised the importance of protecting the local nature reserve and its inhabitants.
"Our key issue has always been the access route, which would have decimated the nature reserve, as well as causing issues along Quarry Lane with additional traffic.
"We would not oppose plans which moved the access route to the development elsewhere – we have no problems with housing developments on the whole, but we do feel strongly that they should not be at the expense of our wonderful nature reserve.
"The pandemic has highlighted the importance of green spaces being accessible for all in Mansfield and we will continue to ensure the Quarry Lane nature reserve is protected for the people of the area to continue to enjoy.”
After announcing the plan to appeal, Mr O’Connor also added that they would seek to engage positively with local interested groups to facilitate a positive outcome.
He said: “We, of course, understand that potential change gives rise to concerns, but change can also be extremely positive and a catalyst which triggers a cascade of other benefits.
“Whilst we absolutely understand and respect concerns we equally feel that the focus is almost entirely on the negative and little or no consideration being given to the positive.
“The intentions here have always been and remain positive, in terms of the aim of bringing forward a scheme which delivers meaningful benefit to the local community and Mansfield as a whole.
"With the specific biodiversity net gain linked to this development, the local authority will have cash made available for deployment on programmes such as tree planting, cleaning and improving river quality, intruding areas of wild flowers and much much more.
“The fact that the application is now resolved through the appeal process will not affect that aim and, if successful, we would again seek to positively engage with local interested groups and community whom would hopefully join us on the journey where the end destination is a scheme which stands out as a beacon of excellence for other towns to aspire to emulate.”
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