Belcoo Quarry is a 40ha site situated 2km from the town of Belcoo. The site does not currently have a restoration plan for the final end-use. RESTORE provided advice to the operator on key habitats and biodiversity-focussed features which should be targeted with the proposed restoration plan.

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Belcoo, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland

Mineral Type





Acheson & Glover

Proposed restoration

Calcareous grassland, standing water

Potential best practice

Natural regeneration and proactively seeking advice from nature conservation NGOs


After RESTORE issued their recommendation on Crievehill Quarry, Acheson & Glover suggested Belcoo Quarry would also have potential to restore to nature conservation. The advice offered by RESTORE will be going into a restoration plan which the operator intends to develop in the coming years.

Belcoo Quarry map

Opportunities identified by RESTORE

As with Crievehill Quarry, the operator is one of the largest quarry operators in Northern Ireland and RESTORE saw this as an opportunity not only to influence on one site but to leave a legacy for best practice on restoration across the organisation. The site is also a limestone quarry, therefore providing the opportunity to restore large areas to calcareous grassland, a very rare habitat in Northern Ireland with an estimated 936ha remaining.

Why Belcoo Quarry fitted RESTORE objectives:

  • The area of land owned accumulates to 40ha
  • Help towards creating a restoration plan on a site that did not have one
  • Operator owns several quarries, so this provided an opportunity to influence other sites
  • The site falls within the Northern Ireland Futurescape
  • Operator’s aspirations were already good
  • Several nature conservation protected sites nearby.


November 2014

Acheson & Glover first suggested Belcoo as a RESTORE site

January 2015

RESTORE visited the site to see potential of restoration

February 2015

RESTORE submitted thoughts on restoration design and management.

Proposed restoration

The quarry currently does not have a physical restoration plan.  However, the operator intends to work with a consultant to design one. This will help target habitats and help with the phasing of the restoration, which in time may save money. The drawings will be based around advice by the RESTORE project.

Being under old planning consent, the quarry falls within the Review of Old Minerals Permissions (ROMPs). This means when the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment implement ROMPs, there will be a requirement to have a restoration plan in place.

Our response and suggestions

Following a site visit and meetings with the Operations Manager, RESTORE issued recommendations that could be included in a restoration plan.


As the surrounding area has a good mix of native trees, advice was not to plant trees, allowing instead for natural colonisation. Species-rich hedgrows to be used for boundaries, using 50% Hawthorn, 20% Blackthorn and 30% with other  native species eg dog rose, wild cherry or rowan.

not approved

Soil and land forming

Habitats of high biodiversity value usually need soils low in nutrients. Therefore, a basic laboratory test should be carried out to test the nutrients levels before any land forming works, and if necessary the habitat could be created directly on the sub soil.

It was recommended that the final land form should include topographical variation, with slopes of different angles, hummocks and hollows.  And, that restoration blasting is carried out to help the land form and to leave some bare rock faces for raptors and invertebrates.


The final land levels will be significantly deep, resulting in very deep water through most of the site. We advised that the edges of this water body should have a depression that is sinuous and shallow, creating a narrow drawdown zone. We also advised that the underwater topography be varied and lunar-like, to make it more optimal for biodiversity. Natural regeneration of vegetation was recommended, ensuring the greatest ecological value.

not approved


RESTORE advised on restoring most of the site to calcareous grassland. We advsied that it would be better to allow for the grassland to naturally regenerate in order to encourage the best species diversity.   If this was not possible, we suggested green hay stewing from a local donor site or buying

not approved


In addition to advising on the restoration plan, we recommended that the operator develop a management plan for both the active and restored parts of the site. RESTORE advised on the management of the active and final habitats on site, which can be incorporated into the plan.

How this best practice is transferable

The site demonstrates the potential of being proactive in creating restoration plans without the legal requirement.  As the operator is one of the largest in Northern Ireland, it also has the ability to influence others such as competitors. Key features that could be shared are:

  • Proactively seeking advice from nature conservation NGOs
  • Natural regeneration
  • Water body with edge areas optimal for wildlife
  • Maintaining areas of bare ground.

Lessons learned

Belcoo Quarry was the final site included in the project. This meant there was no opportunity to visit the site in the summer months to assess existing flora and fauna. This could have helped to refine recommendations.