Located on the geographical feature ‘Sharpstone Ridge’, Bayston Hill quarry is situated on the southern outskirts of Shrewsbury. The site produces approximately 800,000 tonnes of a high specification aggregate each year, which is predominately used in road construction - including for Abu Dhabi’s new Formula 1 track. The quarry provides the largest reserve of gritstone in England.
Restoration / Priority Habitats
Woodland / Wood pasture
Enhancement of non-operational land
The first consent for the site was granted in 1947 (an interim development order), with the site originally worked to supply ballast for railways. Tarmac bought the site in 1972. A planning application to extend the site to the south was granted in December 2008, which would see the site expanding to cover 300 hectares. As part of this permission, there was a requirement for Tarmac to create a landscaping bund to screen the site, occupying an area of over 18ha and measuring 1.2km long by up to 170m wide.
The extensive bund was constructed 100m back from the existing natural escarpment using the topsoil and underlying spoil and other materials from the existing quarry, providing a visual barrier during the operational phase and permanent landform that will be retained as part of the final restoration of the quarry.
The screening bund, together with other peripheral areas around the quarry rim, provided a unique opportunity to create over 20ha of priority habitat, principally through the establishment of species-rich grassland, in an area that consists of predominately improved agricultural land.
The extent of wildflower grassland has dramatically declined within Shropshire and across the county, with up to 97% lost nationwide, and it has been this habitat type that has formed a particular focus within the scheme for the screening bund. Two types of grassland have been created at Bayston Hill: lowland natural grassland and acid grassland, a typical habitat of the Welsh Borderland hills.
To minimise the fertility of the soil - thus maximising the ecological value - the topsoil was mixed with subsoil and placed to a depth of 800mm under 100mm and 250mm of topsoil from poorer soil areas for woodland and grassland creation, respectively. This method ensures that topsoil is not lost within the bulk fill of the landform itself, yet minimises increased depths of topsoil that would create too fertile conditions for habitat creation.
Some experimental translocation plots were also trialled. During the pre-application survey work, small areas of habitat containing characteristic woodland or acid grassland species were identified. As part of the creation of the bund, soil from these areas were conserved and placed directly onto the newly created landform in the anticipation that the seed bank held within the soil would be conserved and regenerate in the new locations. To date, bluebells, small-flowered buttercup, field pepperwort and Smith’s pepperwort have all regenerated within the translocated areas.
Grassland creation at the site provided an opportunity to involve the local community in active restoration at this site. Initial use of wildflower seed failed to establish the desired habitat, so a community-engagement exercise saw local residents taking part in a green hay strewing exercise. Further collaborative restoration works have been undertaken at the site with the creation of a community orchard.
Ponds have been created across the site which have already been colonised by a variety of species including great crest newts in four of the five pools, while, during a sweep-net exercise over the shallow pools, Tachytrechus notatus (species of long-legged fly) was recorded for the first time in Shropshire.
The screening bund not only provides significant benefits for wildlife but also for people. As part of the bund design, Tarmac has created a trail along the entire ridge, linking into the existing footpath network and providing magnificent views, including from the quarry’s viewing platform, across the surrounding landscape. Information boards and a seating area have also been included in the design, created from a selection of fossilised tree trunk that were uncovered during the excavation works in the quarry, providing not only a recreational facility but also an educational feature.
Biodiversity opportunities offered up by the minerals industry is often focused on the post-extraction phase of a site as restoration schemes are implemented. However, as this site showcases, quarries can also provide significant opportunities during the operational stage by maximising land outside of the active void. By enhancing non-operational land through habitat creation and management, biodiversity gains and public benefit can be achieved in the short term and built upon further through the final restoration scheme, in the longer term.
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