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Housing plans near Derbyshire quarry could be scrapped due to historic mines

Plans for dozens of homes and jobs next to a Derbyshire quarry could be shelved because of protected remains of historic mines.

The proposals for Middle Peak Quarry, near Wirksworth, were submitted by Tarmac nearly a year ago but have still not reached Derbyshire Dales District Council’s planning committee.

If the scheme is approved, the developer says it would include 151 houses and create 142 jobs through an array of new business units covering more than four acres.

However, the plans, off Cromford Road and Middleton Road, have hit another obstacle which hinges on a decision from central government.

Part of the proposed site, to the east of Middle Peak Quarry, includes centuries old remains of mines which are protected by law as scheduled monuments by Historic England.

It says the remains are of “national importance”.

These are the former Nether Ratchwood and Rantor lead mines, originally “sunk” in the 1740s and active until the 1860s.

A summary of the protected remains by Historic England reads: “The mines at Ratchwood and Rantor are well preserved examples of early nucleated mines with ore works.

“They serve to illustrate the change in surface form associated with the spread of mining from exposed veins to those capped by sterile shale, and show a good diversity of features for mines of this date and type.

“The stone storage bay is a rare feature.

“The history of the monument is well documented.”

It is understood that Historic England are close to making a recommendation to James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, who will then have the final decision.

A letter from Tim Allen, Historic England’s inspector of ancient monuments, to the council in September said that his organisation has concerns over the proposals.

Mr Allen wrote: “We remain unsatisfied that the application presents a sustainable approach to archaeological features within the heritage buffer area to the scheduled monument.

“Whilst there appears to be a commitment to retain two shafts as we had understood; within this zone it appears that the intimately associated above ground remains would be subject to removal under a ‘watching brief’.”

A consultancy firm employed by Tarmac, Surface Property, responded to say “we would ensure no inadvertent impacts during construction through fencing this area” and that historic mounds near the mine shafts would be retained.

Alongside this, an archaeological clerk of works would be appointed to monitor the site during “major earthworks”.

Neil Beards, development manager for Tarmac, said: “We remain committed to delivering new homes on this site, helping to meet the need for family housing as well as delivering land suitable to support local businesses.

“We continue to work closely with Derbyshire Dales District Council which has allocated this site in its Local Plan.”

Tarmac also has major plans for the neighbouring 140-acre quarry itself which would see a further 645 homes built on the site – bringing the total to 796 homes – with affordable housing; employment, office and community space; a corner shop; and a primary school.

It has been dubbed the “largest and most significant development in Wirksworth” in the area’s neighbourhood plan.

The current district council car park in Old Lane could be extended as part of the scheme and the historic Rock House would be retained after a large number of objections to its demolition.

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