Crawcrook Quarry is a 28ha site situated between the villages of Wylam and Crawcrook, in Tyne and Wear. Nature After Minerals worked with the RSPB-CEMEX biodiversity adviser input to a restoration plan for the site. Extraction ceased in 2012; the site had started to develop some significant biodiversity interest through natural regeneration. We recommended that the plan incorporate the interest features that had already developed, and add to these through ongoing natural regeneration, and appropriate management to maintain the open mosaic habitat.
Open mosaic habitat and acid grassland
Potential best practice
Retaining open mosaic habitat on previously developed land
Crawcrook quarry is located to the west of the village of Crawcrook within the metropolitan county of Tyne and Wear in north-east England. A requirement was for an appropriate restoration scheme to be developed and implemented by the operator, CEMEX (UK) Ltd, with relevant stakeholders.
Opportunities identified by RESTORE
As time had lapsed since extraction works ceased, nature was already colonising the site. This then provides a case study of the value of natural regeneration in the development of the priority habitat: ‘open mosaic habitat on previously developed land’. The importance of this restoration method and habitat type is not always recognised by planners, so it is important to ensure that the current value of the site for nature was incorporated into plans, so safeguarding important features.
The value of restoring species-rich grassland and retaining open mosaic habitat on previously developed land is highlighted in the National Character Area profile (14) for Tyne and Wear Lowlands. The Statement of Environmental Opportunity (SEO1) states that NCA should ensure:
“restoring and creating a network of species-rich grasslands” and “protecting biodiverse brownfield land for its biodiversity interest, avoiding greening of these sites”.
Why Crawcrook Quarry fitted RESTORE objectives:
The site has already developed significant biodiversity value through natural regeneration, but the requirement by the Mineral Planning Authority for a formal restoration plan could put these important features at risk unless they were embedded within the required plan. ‘Open mosaic habitat’ has the potential to support several rare species, particularly invertebrates, and it is important that this enhanced and managed appropriately in the long term. The site is located between two inhabited areas, so could also provide important local community green open space.
Working with the RSPB-CEMEX Biodiversity advisor, we submitted pre-application comments to CEMEX on an updated revised proposed restoration plan.
The indicative restoration scheme incorporated a mixed end-use, with agriculture to the north of the site and nature conservation to the south.
The biodiversity interest proposed included a hedgerow, area of tree / scrub planting, open mosaic habitat, wetland features and acid grassland. The site also includes an area of un-worked land, which is improved grassland.
Our response and suggestions
The proposed restoration sought to protect and enhance what had already developed into a species-rich site. However, additional measures could optimise the site even further for biodiversity. Also there is potential for introducing some public access into the site.
Our response included recommendations to enhance the restoration and aftercare, as detailed below:
How this best practice is transferable
Natural regeneration or colonisation of vegetation at Crawcrook Quarry has allowed the site to develop its own biodiversity interest. This demonstrates how, in some situations, working with the grain of nature, and being less prescriptive produces a more biodiverse, and, by using less resources in restoration, more sustainable end result. A similar restoration is being used at Threshfield Quarry, where other restoration blasting for the landforming, the site is being left for nature to move in.
This site demonstrates how in certain circumstance being less prescriptive in the restoration, and allowing nature time to develop through natural regeneration can result in a species-rich site at a much reduced cost. However, this is not just an excuse to just walk away post extraction, as the key to retaining the value of the site will be in its long term management, slowing succession and maintaining a balance of bare ground with more mature vegetation.