Work to build nearly hundreds of homes in a former Derbyshire quarry is under way, with the first properties set for completion next March.
It has now been a year since Derbyshire Dales District Council granted outline permission for Groveholt Ltd to build 388 houses and 94 flats in the disused Cawdor Quarry on the outskirts of Matlock.
This came 17 years after the plans had first been proposed.
At the time of the decision last June, then leader of the council, Cllr Lewis Rose, said that the development should be approved “for the greater good of Matlock”.
Since then, brownfield development specialist Sirius Group has cleared part of the site, which has been derelict and left to become overgrown since the 1950s, ready for development.
Now, Wildgoose Homes has begun work on the first 15 houses in a part of the development close to Matlock Spa Road called Gateway Spa.
Wildgoose, which was founded in Matlock in 1896, is also to build three four-storey apartment blocks – containing a combined 38 flats – in the first section of the quarry’s development.
These blocks would sit beside Matlock Spa Road and next to a unique towering rocky outcrop and the main entrance to the quarry.
The top floor of each block would be luxury penthouse apartments overlooking Matlock.
A 235 square metre convenience store would be housed in the ground floor of one of the apartment blocks.
On top of this, a four storey building of 22 “loft apartments” “echoing the language of a handsome mill” would be built opposite the apartment blocks – on the current construction compound.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service was given an exclusive tour of the ongoing site, where builders were getting to work on the foundations and lower layers of the first few homes – all constructed with locally-sourced stone.
Stone for the houses, infill for foundations and the largest boulders from the quarry site have all been used in construction already.
A steep bank has been reinforced which will become a wildflower meadow – plants from the site have been protected and replanted.
A public walkway will run along the top of this bank.
The steep quarry cliffs overlooking the existing lakes prove a dramatic background for the development, which nestles into the hillside around Matlock and provides miles of views into the surrounding Dales.
As part of planning conditions for the scheme, the developer is currently in the process of agreeing contributions for improvements to schools (£673,000), public transport (£225,000), health services (£185,000) and roads (£150,000)
Work on the first 15 homes is set to be finished by next March, and marketed from this autumn – to give potential buyers the chance to customise their houses.
Meanwhile, the apartment blocks are set to be built by the end of next year.
Overall, the near-500-home scheme will take at least seven years to complete.
Once built, the scheme would include a cafe, shop and 28,000 square metres of business space, complete with grass roofs and solar panels, and an “ecology interpretation centre”.
It would also include a nature reserve managed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, to be dubbed the Wetlands and Ecology Park.
This would be formed around a lake at the foot of the steep former quarry cliffs, currently well-used by anglers.
Part of the site is also the former home of the Permanite Asphalt works. Two towering hoppers would be retained and relocated as part of the scheme, and a tower block would be renovated into four apartments.
The site will be split into five distinct areas: Gateway Spa, Crescent Spa, Woodland Spa, Village Spa and Spa Crescent.
Work on the latter four stages will only begin with further detailed planning approvals over the next few years.
David Morley, the architect behind the scheme, hopes that the development will encourage people not to use cars, but to walk or cycle instead, either into Matlock or to the town’s train station.
He says the scheme has “staggering potential”.
Part of the design of the near-500 homes includes the “hiding” of cars under the buildings in alcoves.
Mr Morley said: “It is exciting to see the first phase, Gateway Spa, finally taking shape.
“We see this becoming a model brownfield development regenerating industrial land in the most sustainable location possible, just five minutes’ walk from the railway station and eight minutes from the town centre.
“It’s a far cry from the traditional house builder approach with generous open spaces between buildings and a country park feel that the community can take real pride in.”
Mr Morley said the development would be “all electric” with no gas involved with the scheme – which he called “ground-breaking”.
Jonathan Wildgoose, executive chairman of Wildgoose Homes, said: “We are thrilled to be working back in Matlock, where our business, which is one of the oldest and largest family-owned construction companies in the region, was born.
“This is a significant development in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales, which will provide a stunning location for the homes that are being built and we are delighted to be playing our part.”