Engagement with local communities, conservation groups and other stakeholders is a key part of the planning process for new mineral extractions. During the application stage and even pre-application, it can help build consensus and an understanding of how extraction could drive high quality habitat creation, benefitting people and wildlife.

Paxton Pits, Cambridgeshire

At Little Paxton in Cambridgeshire, gravel extraction between 1940 and the 1960s led to the creation of Paxton Pits Local Nature Reserve. The reserve has developed into a popular green space for the local community and is managed by Huntingdonshire District Council and volunteers from The Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve (FPPNR). Formed in 1995 and with a membership of over 2400, the FPPNR supports the conservation work on site and runs the visitor centre and cafe.

In the early 2000’s, Aggregate Industries submitted an application to Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) for further gravel extraction followed by restoration to nature conservation. This offered an opportunity for a substantial expansion of the nature reserve from 192 acres to 704 acres.

Since the proposed extraction was a departure from the preferred areas in the Minerals Local Plan, CCC required the application demonstrate exceptional community benefits. They suggested that a plan, which incorporated and extended Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, would unlock greater community benefits by maximising the opportunities available for increased biodiversity and public access.

Aggregate Industries responded to this by convening a working group of key stakeholders including the County Council, the FPPNR, Natural England and RSPB to develop its proposals; creating a blueprint for development of the reserve extension for the next 25 years. This included the restoration plan, the phasing of land release into the reserve, habitat management, public access and facilities. After 18 months of detailed discussion and negotiation, the revised proposal was submitted.

The formal consultation process revealed widespread public support for extending the reserve. The FPPNR co-ordinated a letter writing campaign, and alongside numerous local residents, submitted 326 letters of support for the scheme to the County Council. Due to this support and the proposed public benefits that would result from the scheme, CCC granted permission in March 2006 subject to a detailed section 106 agreement. Final approval for the scheme was announced in October 2007.

The Linner Loop, The Netherlands

The Linner Loop is a large meander in the River Mass, near the city of Roermond in the Province of Limburg. A legacy of gravel extraction since the 1920’s had created a landscape which looked green and pleasant but was limited value for wildlife due to a mix of restored, over-fertilised pasture land, non-native poplars and small, steep-sided lakes. Ballast Nedam, one of The Netherlands largest mineral operators, purchased 150ha of the Linner Loop and submitted a planning application to extract the remaining 10 million tonne gravel reserve.

In The Netherlands, no new quarrying permissions are granted unless the restoration scheme offers multiple benefits to the community. In the majority of cases, this includes providing flood alleviation.  As the mineral planning authority, The Province of Limburg, was looking for Ballast Nedam to deliver these benefits, including the creation of an ecological corridor through the surrounding agricultural and urban areas.

Ballast Nedam developed an outline restoration scheme alongside a series of alternative afteruse options that would address the needs of different stakeholders:

  • Enhanced public access
  • Enhanced recreation
  • Maximised flood alleviation
  • Nature conservation only – maximising ecological gain.
  • Sacrificial meadows for geese grazing - alleviating grazing pressure on surrounding farmland.

These options were ranked and following careful negotiations and consensus off all stakeholders, a final design drawn up which combined elements of the different options. A planning application was submitted and permission granted in 2012.

Named “New Life for the Linner Loop”, the permitted scheme will deliver multiple benefits:

  • Creation of an ecological connection zone
  • Improved biodiversity by through restoration of dynamic floodplain woodland
  • Reduced flood risks
  • Enhanced public access
  • Enhanced tourism and creation of a boating destination around the Roermond lakes.

Ballast Nedam liaised extensively with local residents living in properties overlooking the Linner Loop, who had reservations about the proposals. The company will work the gravel nearest the residential area first so that restoration can commence at the earliest opportunity, thereby minimising the impact on local amenity.

With thanks to Jim Stevenson, Huntingdonshire District Council and Willem-Jan Duijnstee, Ballast Nedam Grondstoffen BV.

The information set out within this advisory sheet in no way constitutes legal or regulatory advice and is based on circumstances and facts as they existed at the time Nature After Minerals compiled this document. Should there be a change in circumstances or facts, then this may adversely affect any  recommendations, opinions or findings contained within this document