'How many boys must die before owner is allowed to drain tragic quarry?'

On July 10, 2022, East Quarry in Appley Bridge was packed with teenagers.

As temperatures soared, the spot had become popular with youths looking for somewhere to cool off and have some fun. The site is privately-owned but during the warmer months it attracts hundreds of youngsters who jump into the clear waters from the cliff edge.

But just one day earlier, East Quarry had been the scene of a tragedy. Just two metres from the water's Jamie Lewiin had got into trouble.

Despite his friends' desperate attempts to save him, the 16-year-old, from Southport, sank beneath the surface and drowned.

He was the third teenager to die East Quarry. This week, a coroner warned it is only a matter of time before there is a fourth.


On September 26, 1999, after going swimming with friends, 17-year-old Craig Croston jumped off one of the ledges, swam the full length of the quarry and got to the other side.

Youngsters jumping into the water at East Quarry
Youngsters jumping into the water at East Quarry -Credit:Facebook

His mum, Ann Croston, said: "He climbed up the hill to go back and jumped into the water again, and when he got halfway across, friends said they could see there was something happening, and then he just disappeared from sight."

Hours later, Craig's body was pulled from the water.

In 2015, promising rugby league starlet Miracle Godson disappeared after jumping into the water. he 13-year-old played for a junior side at Wigan St Judes Rugby League Club in Wigan and according to club bosses, he had great potential for the future.

Scouts had been monitoring his progress.

Miracle Godson was 13 when he died
Miracle Godson was 13 when he died -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Horrified friends watched as he disappeared beneath the water. They were unable to save him.

In July 2022, 16-year-old Jamie Lewin became the third boy to die after getting into difficulty at East Quarry in Appley Bridge. Following an inquest this week, his family have now asked "how many more must die?" before the land-owner is given permission to drain it.

East Quarry is one of several sites owned by Peter O'Dowd's firm Maybrook Investments. He claims his efforts to make the quarry safe have been hampered by various councils and planning authorities.

Although Mr O'Dowd's account is disputed, by some local residents and councillors who say he is yet to submit the correct documentation, all are in agreement that something must be done. And, perhaps most significantly, Jamie's family support Mr O'Dowd's bid to drain and fill the quarry.

Craig Croston, of Wigan, who died in East Quarry in Appley Bridge in September 1999
Craig Croston, of Wigan, who died in East Quarry in Appley Bridge in September 1999 -Credit:Diane Louise Croston/ Ann Croston

At an inquest into Jamie's death, held in Preston, his parents asked: "Where does it end? They won't let him do anything with it. Is it just going to keep happening? There's been three deaths. How many more must die before something is done?"

Since quarrying at the site ended in 1992 there have been several attempts to redevelop the land.

In 2011 outline planning permission was granted to allow the previous owner Wendy Scott to build residential units (on land and on water), a hotel, a restaurant/boathouse, a car park and a new community centre at the site but no work was started.

Mr O'Dowd bought the land in 2018 and, since then, has submitted several planning applications relating to draining and infilling the quarry. While his ultimate aim has always been to develop the site he maintains that his first priority is making the quarry safe.

Jamie Lewin with his younger brother Michael
Jamie Lewin with his younger brother Michael -Credit:No credit

At a public meeting of Wrightington Parish Council, held in July 2022 after Jamie's death, the councillors and members of the public who were present agreed that something needed to be done to prevent further fatalities.

In a letter seen by LancsLive the council clerk wrote: "At the Parish Council meeting last night there were differing views on what should bedone at East Quarry, Appley Bridge, following the tragic loss of Jamie Lewin's life.

"The majority of the residents present expressed their wish that East Quarry is drained and filled in to prevent any future tragedies such as this.

East Quarry in Appley Bridge, West Lancashire
East Quarry in Appley Bridge, West Lancashire -Credit:James Maloney/Lancs Live

"The Parish Council therefore wish it to be known that they support the proposals of Maybrook Developments to drain and fill East Quarry to remove the dangers associated with the quarry and to prevent a recurrence of the recent tragedy."

Planning documents and notices, seen by LancsLive, reveal the steps Mr O'Dowd has taken in order to drain and fill the quarry over the last six years. He believes that removing the water from the quarry, and filling it in, is the only way to prevent further deaths.

In June 2021, after being granted a permit to drain the quarry by the Environment Agency, Mr O'Dowd submitted an application to Lancashire County Council seeking permission to construct a new access ramp which would allow equipment to be installed at the site.

A floral tribute left at a fence at the water-filled East Quarry in Appley Bridge, where  16-year old Jamie Lewin died on July 9
A floral tribute left at a fence at the water-filled East Quarry in Appley Bridge, where 16-year old Jamie Lewin died on July 9 -Credit:No credit

Planning officer Jonathan Haine recommended the application be approved but the council's planning committee voted to refuse permission.

Mr O'Dowd's application was rejected on the grounds that the construction of an access ramp would generate "volumes of HGV movements that would be harmful to the amenity of local residents" and that he had not adequately demonstrated the development would not have an adverse impact on bat colonies.

However, in a formal consultation response, Lancashire County Council's own highways department raised no objections and said: "The proposal would use an established access to the public highway and the size and nature of the proposals should have a negligible impact on highway safety and highway capacity within the immediate vicinity of the site."

File pic from August 2021 issued by Ormskirk and Rural West Lancs Police of worrying image of teens 'putting their lives at risk' at East Quarry in Appley Bridge
A sign advising people of the dangers at East Quarry in Appley Bridge last week

Mr O'Dowd then discovered that he would be able to construct the ramp without obtaining planning permission through a principle known as permitted development.

However, Lancashire County Council informed him that he would still need to apply for this, and in order to do so would need to submit an environmental impact assessment.

After this week's inquest Mr O'Dowd told LancsLive that commissioning such an assessment will be his next step but warned that it could "still be years" before the quarry is finally made safe.