Council demands more detail on controversial Derbyshire water park plans

Councillors are demanding more detailed information from developers about their plans for a controversial giant water park in a Derbyshire quarry.

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 4th July 2022, 5:27 pm

Derbyshire County Council has served a Regulation 25 notice on BMET Ltd, the firm behind plans to turn the derelict Crich Quarry site into the Amber Rock Resort.

BMET submitted its water park resort plans in February, three years on since the Local Democracy Reporting Service broke the news of the upcoming project.

After a number of key objections from organisations giving their assessments on the proposed scheme, and hundreds of letters from opposing residents, the county council has served a formal notice to the developer – demanding widespread extra information.

Crich Quarry could be turned into a huge water park under plans submitted to Derbyshire County Council.

This information must be provided for the council to reach a decision, otherwise, under environmental impact legislation, the application would be rejected on the grounds of insufficient information.

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The developer must supply information explaining how it intends to cut and fill in parts of the derelict quarry to make way for the proposed water park resort, along with details of the vibration impact and blasting scheme, and traffic movements.

It must also provide more details about how the scheme will handle traffic when it is up and running and assessments of junctions around the site to examine the potential impact of the resort and potential road safety concerns.

The county council’s own highways department says in the notice “there are too many outstanding issues not addressed”, also “strongly” reiterating that the resort “must not become a visitor attraction for daily car-borne visitors, apart from anybody arriving on foot, by bus or bicycle”.

Its flood authority department is currently recommending objection to the scheme due to a lack of information to reassure concerns about flood risk and how water diverted or impacted by the scheme would be dispersed safely.

The council’s landscape officer has submitted a lengthy statement detailing how the resort’s impact on the surrounding area has not been explored.

This includes the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, ancient woodland, numerous areas of “environmental sensitivity”, a number of conservation areas and listed buildings – including the Crich Stand military memorial which sits on the lip of the quarry itself.

The landscape officer says this has been “under-assessed” and claims there has been “no recognition of the wider landscape sensitivity…within a landscape of significant landscape value and sensitivity at the county scale”.

They also say the impact of further quarrying required to convert the site into a resort has not been assessed and say that a number of key viewpoints, from which the site is clearly visible, have not been investigated.

The officer writes: “We would need to be satisfied – and it be demonstrated to us – that the site could indeed be developed without impacting on the essential qualities of the surrounding landscape at night particularly with regard to views from the World Heritage Site and its Buffer Zone.”

Historic England also says documentation providing an assessment of the scheme is “insufficient”, particularly the potential impact on Crich Stand, along with light pollution.

Further information assessing surrounding heritage assets has been requested.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust also says the supplied information is “insufficient” and that a suitable biodiversity impact assessment needs to be submitted, with references to badgers, reptiles, bats and peregrine falcons.

The county council also lists that a travel plan, costing a total of £5,550 over five years, needs to be drawn together to monitor the site’s impact if it were to be approved, along with a plan to provide money to improve surrounding footpaths, bus stops and cycleways.

Legislation dictates that this overall environmental impact assessment is decided separately before the application for the scheme itself is decided. The applicant must supply what it deems to be sufficient responses to all of the required extra information before the application can proceed.

The response must be publicly disclosed and advertised to the public and interested parties and consultees.

BMET’s water park resort plans include a 152-bed hotel, 128 straw-bale lodges, an indoor water park, 210 holiday apartments, an indoor/outdoor climbing centre and a heritage centre, a cliff-top restaurant, sports complex and more.

The documents submitted with the application claim the project will have the “highest sustainable credentials” through reuse of the brownfield site, widespread tree planting and rainwater harvesting, and incorporating renewable energy such as water-powered lifts and solar panels.

These documents also say the project would create 561 full-time and part-time jobs when it is complete, with 200 people to be employed for the construction stages.

The project is expected to take around five years to complete, if approved.