Residents’ concern over lack of affordable homes at huge Derbyshire housing development

Middle Peak Quarry
Middle Peak Quarry

Plans for 151 homes on land next to a Derbyshire quarry should include affordable housing, say residents.

In July, construction firm Tarmac applied for permission to build 796 homes next to the disused Middle Peak Quarry, in Wirksworth.

The first phase would include 151 homes and a raft of space for new businesses to set up shop.

Subsequent phases would include building 645 homes in the 140-acre quarry itself, along with affordable housing, employment space, a corner shop and a primary school.

However, residents have voiced concerns about the lack of affordable housing in the first phase, on land off Middleton Road and Cromford Road.

Tarmac says that due to the cost of remediation to turn the area from its former use into a suitable development site, it would not be viable to build affordable homes.

Initial plans had been to include these cut-price homes, offered at 80 per cent of the area’s average rental rate, but the discovery of 17 former mine shafts saw these plans dropped.

The firm said it would take six months just to fill and cap these shafts, on top of other necessary remediation.

It added that affordable housing would be provided in the second much larger phase of the project, which could see 193 cut-price homes built.

One resident, Rich Ashley, said that he is “saddened, perplexed and angered” at the lack of affordable housing, dubbing it a “low blow”.

Cromford Road residents Wendy Johnson and Gavin Norris say that Wirksworth currently offers “little potential” for affordable housing for their two young adult daughters.

In a letter, they stated: “We need our town to be a place where our children can stay if they wish to, a sense of belonging fosters community engagement.

“It would be a real shame to see such an expansive development which would not offer affordable housing for the young people in our town, who are the next generation with already invested interest and love for the town.”

Another Wirksworth resident, Anna Clyne, said: “The decision to halt the offering of any affordable homes is a shocking turn in the planning proposals.

“It is deeply upsetting that this has been done because of the costs that will be incurred to cap off the heritage assets in the development area.

“Sadly, the younger generations cannot afford to stay in the area and building more unaffordable homes damages the community to its core.”

Meanwhile, Cathy Cooke, has also lodged her objection stating: “It totally lacks affordable housing so will have a negative impact on the needs of the local community and social cohesion of the town.”

Heather Fitton said: “There is not attempt to include social housing in this application. This may be welcomed by some, however, there is a legal obligation of “duty of care” to ensure that all builds take this into account.

“Although not directly, homelessness is one of our biggest crises in the UK at present. Here is an opportunity to act inclusively to create a positive knock-on effect and directly rehome those in need.”

In response to these concerns, Neil Beards, estates manager for Tarmac, said: “Due to the high costs associated with remediating the ex-industrial brownfield site, including the need to cap a series of mine shafts, we are unable to provide any social housing on the site.

“However, we will be delivering a range of housing types including one and two-bed homes to help people get on the property ladder. We are also committed to delivering social housing as we look to redevelop Middle Peak Quarry.”

The plans have been submitted to Derbyshire Dales District Council. 

As part of the first stage of the project, the current district council car park in Old Lane could be extended and the historic Rock House would be retained after mass objections to its demolition in the initial draft phases of the plan.

There would be around 200 car parking spaces on the site, with the choice for residents to park on their drives or in garages.

If the scheme is approved, Tarmac will then sell the site to a housebuilder who would  apply for the details of the houses (layout, scale appearance and landscaping). Once these details are granted construction will commence around Spring 2020.

The application will be debated by the district council later this year.

On June 28, district councillors signed off on the plans for Cawdor Quarry, three-and-a-half miles away as the crow flies, in Matlock.

The scheme faced similar pressures from remediation, and after two decades of work with residents and the council, the developer, Groveholt Ltd, dropped all affordable housing proposals.

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service