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A new lease of life for disused quarries

QUARRYING

The quarrying industry has always had to face criticism over its environmental impact. Last week, the Quarry Products Association unveiled this year's winner of its coveted Cooper Heyman Cup for quarry restoration work.

Paul Thompson reports

Brett Aggregates: Church Lammas Quarry, Surrey

Winner: Cooper Heyman Cup

Rarely has a quarry restoration scheme included any facility or use for the 8.5 million people with mental and physical disabilities in the UK and it is even rarer that they are involved in its whole design process.

With correct planning, design, construction and management, quarries could offer a wonderful opportunity for education, sport and recreation for this large section of the population.These stakeholders and their representative organisations are becoming ever more sophisticated and rightly expect to be involved in the whole process, from project brief to long-term management.

Brett Aggregates decided to explore this whole subject by undertaking a demonstration project at its Church Lammas quarry in Surrey, following its restoration in the late 1990s.

In 2004 new planning legislation placed greater emphasis on the involvement of stakeholders in all sectors of planning.The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 came into full effect from October 2004, placing greater emphasis on the involvement and needs of the disabled in all aspects of life.

It was against this backdrop that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, through its agents the Mineral Industry Research Organisation, endorsed the Church Lammas Demonstration Project as part of its 2004/05 Research Programme part-funded by the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, by the grant of £70,000 towards its research and development.

The Colne Valley

Regional Park Authority, Surrey

County Council and Spelthome Borough Council have also supported the demonstration project with Surrey County Council contributing funding.

The demonstration project consists of elements designed to maximise the enjoyment and security of people with physical and mental disabilities - parking, special gates, wide, clearly visible footpaths, interpretation boards with Braille/raised relief, a bespoke bird hide for wheelchair users, safe access to the water, bird and bat boxes made by students at the local Mencap centre and a dedicated area of sensory planting all feature at the project.

By adding social and environmental value to its restored site, Brett has shown that the restoration scheme is a positive gain to outweigh any harm during extraction.

Local, regional and national governments reap the benefit by the tangible fulfilment of policies and objectives. Some 8.5 million people represent a very substantial stakeholder group, which should be further involved in the mineral extraction and restoration process, and the Church Lammas demonstration project is so much more than the physical manifestations on site - it is the whole on-going process of disabled involvement from beginning to end.

Lafarge Aggregates: Kiplin Quarry, North Yorkshire

Winner: Restoration Award of Special Merit

Kiplin Quarry in North Yorkshire opened in 1989 with Phase 3 of the sand and gravel pit worked during the early 1990s.

The key elements in the development included maintaining the fabric of Kiplin Hall, a Jacobean manor house, during operation and sympathetic restoration of the work.

Restoration involved the formation of a fully landscaped lake: the lake provides not only a focal feature but is developed into a fly-fishery, providing additional income for the Hall. It has been partially planted with weeping willow, lime, swamp cypress, dogwood and royal fern.

A footpath meanders around the lake margins, linking the Hall with another listed building, which was extensively restored with repairs to the chopped cobble construction walls, laying of a Yorkshire stone-flag floor and installation of services.

An area of rough ground immediately in front of the Hall was reclaimed by raising ground levels to form an extension of its formal lawns.Other work included the construction of a vehicular bridge across the Kiplin Beck, extensive woodland management within the grounds of the Hall and the resurfacing of estate roads.

The River Swale has also had its say by repeatedly flooding some areas of the project - one particular area of grassland has been seeded three times and failed each time through flooding.The scheme had also to contend with protected species, with the native white-clawed crayfish present within the Kiplin Beck.

Patersons of Greenoakhill Limited and Kilsyth Golf Club: Beltmoss Quarry, Central Scotland

Winner: Restoration Award

The project provides seven replacement golf holes on a disused and infilled old hard-rock quarry and adjoining agricultural land, and allows the extension of Beltmoss Quarry onto land currently forming part of the existing golf course.

Granted planning consent in January 2002 and finally started in April 2003, the project team first had to complete the capping of the old infill area.

The construction of the new golf holes has also had to contend with the topography of the site and the prevailing weather of west Central Scotland.

Although the construction works were finished in July 2004, the new course area should be playable this month.

There are also some landscaping works to be completed and some residual drainage works to be resolved to the satisfaction of the planning authority.

The successful joint venture between Patersons and the Kilsyth Golf Club ensures the continued extraction of some 4.4 million tonnes of hard rock at Beltmoss Quarry and the creation of a high-specification golf course.

Cemex UK and Suffolk Wildlife Trust: Lackford Lakes, West Suffolk

Winner: Restoration Award of Outstanding Merit

Extraction of the rich sand and gravel deposits at Lackford began in 1968 and was completed in 1999, supplying over 3.5 million tonnes of aggregate to local contractors.

By the mid 1980s, Suffolk Wildlife Trust was actively involved in contributing to the restoration of the site and was managing the first restored area.

Since then, restoration has expanded across the 240-acre site.The resulting habitat is particularly important for wildfowl and dragonflies, but also hosts a diversity of flora and fauna that embraces otters, frighteningly large pike and nationally important populations of water birds.

The success of the reserve, in respect of its diverse habitat and range of resident and visiting species, was initially recognised in 1997 with the SSSI designation, awarded in respect of the wildfowl and important dragonfly populations at Lackford.

In 2000 the company gifted the remaining 222 acres of the site to the Trust and awarded it £300,000 for the construction of a visitor's centre and improvement of public access and habitat trails throughout the nature reserve.

WBB Minerals, Devon County Council and Devon Wildlife Trust: Little Bradley New Pond, Devon

Winner: Restoration Award

Situated within the Bovey Basin area of Devon close to Dartmoor National Park, Little Bradley New Pond is one of three ponds in the locality, but the only one designed specifically to encourage wildlife.

In partnership between Devon County Council, the Devon Wildlife Trust and WBB Minerals, Little Bradley New Pond has developed into an area of nature conservation interest and is of key importance for the provision of dragonfly habitats.

Managed as a Devon Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve, the site provides a diverse range of habitats sufficient to warrant County Wildlife Site designation. In recent years, 20 species of dragonfly have been recorded, of which 13 species are known to have bred.

The management of the site continues with the site being included within the Bovey Basin Ponds, and Wetlands Strategy being developed by WBB Minerals in association with a variety of bodies and individuals with a nature conservation interest in the area.

Tarmac Northern: Stargate Project, Tyne and Wear

Winner: Restoration Award of Special Merit

Tarmac Northern snapped up a special merit award for its restoration of the Stargate site, a former derelict colliery spoil heap near Gateshead.

The site was worked form the early 1980s extracting sand and gravel from beneath the former Stargate colliery tip work, finished in 1992 with the vast majority of the site covered with spoil generated from the former colliery.

Restoration work used silts generated from the processing of sand and gravel on a neighbouring site until 1997, when restoration was completed.

The 15.6-hectare site now boasts restored agricultural land together with a fishing lake providing areas of nature conservation, recreation and leisure.

Hanson Aggregates: Middleton Hall Quarry, Staffordshire Winner: Restoration Award of Special Merit The 5 ha sand and gravel site sits within the floodplain of the River Tame, upstream of Tamworth.

The restoration's objective was to produce a wider and more naturallooking river with typical channel features, including braiding around gravel bars, vegetated islands and varied bank gradients.This new riverscape design provided the basis for the natural regeneration of diverse and especially rare habitats.

The new design has also reduced silt pollution, as the new constructed bank is more stable than the slump-prone original one, while the wider channel has brought flood alleviation benefits.

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