There’s a greater chance that people living in Nottingham may own a cave than anywhere else in the UK, but they may have been in the dark about how to look after them – until now.

With 860 caves and cave systems beneath our feet across a city of just over 300,000 people, there’s a statistically higher probability that local residents and businesses will need to know what to do about that special hole under their premises.

And although some of the caves date back to the medieval age or even earlier, for the first time a guide is being produced to outline how best to take care of this unique Nottingham feature.

Nottingham City Council is due to start a consultation on a Supplementary Planning Document about how caves are managed through the planning process – which is set to go to the authority’s Executive Board on Tuesday 18 June, for approval to go to consultation. The Supplementary Planning Document explains in detail what owners and developers need to do if they are planning change that would affect their caves.

To complement the caves Supplementary Planning Document, the council has commissioned a technical guide to help owners and managers of caves in the city understand how best to conserve, develop and use them creatively and appropriately. Funded through a Heritage Action Zone Grant from Historic England, the guide will span archaeology, structural engineering, geology, planning, and architecture and will give a structured approach to site investigation, heritage assessment and risk management to support sustainable development.

Historic England previously funded a project to survey and explore the significance of the caves as a heritage resource. This new technical guide will be a companion document to the planning document, informing owners, managers, developers and their professional advisors about opportunities for how to use caves and how to look after caves.

The two documents should be published in the autumn/winter to help cave owners understand what they need to do through the planning process as well as how they can use and care for their caves.

Nottingham City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage, Cllr Linda Woodings, said: “Nottingham’s extensive caves are a unique heritage asset of national significance which needs to be safeguarded for future generations. We have more caves made by people here than any other British city. They are an important feature of Nottingham which complement development, encourage tourism and provide research opportunities.

“We are keen to make more of this amazing asset, but also to ensure they are preserved for future generations through careful management and sensitive, creative development. We know that people are fascinated by Nottingham’s caves and are looking forward to hearing people’s views on the Supplementary Planning Document which broadly outlines how we see them being properly managed, protected and enhanced.”

As well as the Caves SPD, Open space and Biodiversity supplementary planning documents are also set to go in front of the City’s Executive Board for approval to go to consultation stage. Once approved, people can have their say on the consultations from the 28 June until 9 August when the documents will be available on Nottingham City Councils website.N

About Nottingham’s caves

Over 860 caves are recorded in Nottingham’s Historic Environment Record. They have been used in the past for a vast range of purposes, including dungeons, beer cellars, tanneries, malt-kilns, houses, wine cellars, tunnels, summer-houses, air-raid shelters, sand mines, follies, and even a bowling alley. Some date back to the medieval period and possibly even earlier. These caves constitute a feature of the City that is nationally unique.

To complement the caves Supplementary Planning Document, the council has commissioned a technical guide to help owners and managers of caves in the city understand how best to conserve, develop and use them creatively and appropriately. This is funded through a Heritage Action Zone Grant from Historic England.

About Nottingham Heritage Action Zone (The the technical guide)

About the Nottingham Heritage Action Zone 

Nottingham was chosen as one of the country’s first 10 Heritage Action Zones

The five-year programme (2017 to 2022), is worth £2.7m, and includes 17 projects that will revitalise the city centre

Conservation Area Grants are being used to enhance Nottingham’s remarkable built heritage

The Conservation Area Grants are complemented by range of heritage and regeneration projects

#NottinghamHAZ or #NottinghamHeritageActionZone

About Historic England

Historic England is the public body that champions and protects England’s historic places. They look after the historic environment, providing expert advice, helping people protect and care for it and helping the public to understand and enjoy it.

The Caves of Nottingham Regeneration Project ran between 2010 and 2016 and was funded by Historic England, Nottingham City Council and the British Geological Survey. It was delivered by Trent and Peak Archaeology and SLR Consulting.