The Newark – Clifton area of the Trent valley has significant potential for wetland habitat creation; 1200 ha of mineral reserves located within this area. This potential will only be met if all stakeholders develop a shared vision; Nature After Minerals / RSPB facilitated two workshops to scope interest in developing a vision for wetland habitat creation, and then develop a partnership.
To be confirmed, but aspiration for a wetland complex building on existing restored areas.
Potential best practice
Cross boundary working, wetland creation at a landscape scale
Nature After Minerals (NAM) / RESTORE working with the RSPB Midlands Regional team scoped the potential for landscape scale wetland creation through minerals restoration in the Trent and Tame river valleys, including the Newark – South Clifton area, around (Langford Lowfields) an RSPB nature reserve and active extraction area, which is an important strategic mineral reserve of over 1200ha. Here sites are being proposed for allocation within the developing Nottinghamshire Mineral Plan.
The area is already significant for biodiversity and green infrastructure through restoration already undertaken at three quarries – Girton, Besthorpe and Langford Lowfields. It is identified as important for future habitat creation. Biodiversity Opportunity Mapping led by Nottinghamshire County Council.
Opportunities identified by RESTORE
NAM / RSPB identified the area as significant potential for new wetland habitats additional to those being created at Langford Lowfields; potential habitat includes reedbed (110 ha), floodplain grazing marsh (600 ha), lowland meadows (70 ha) and ponds (20 ha) Trent and Belvoir Vale Natural Character Area profile.
The to maximise benefits of habitat creation here, a joint approach between nature conservation charities, statutory agencies, mineral operators and mineral planning authorities is needed, with a vision supported by all stakeholders.
Why Newark – Clifton cluster fitted RESTORE objectives:
This cluster of current and future mineral workings provides a unique opportunity to work with a group of stakeholders to create a vision for the area, which can then be supported through the Mineral Plan development process. This will enable mineral restoration plans to be developed in conjunction with neighbouring sites, aligning and complementing habitat creation through the river valley, creating a wetland complex at a landscape scale.
A follow up workshop to develop a strategic, co-ordinated and landscape scale approach to the biodiversity-led restoration of this particular stretch of the River Trent.
The Newark – Clifton master planning project was initiated by the RSPB in Spring 2014. Key relevant stakeholders – mineral operators, Trent Rivers Trust, Nottinghamshire mineral planning authority (planner and ecologist), Environment Agency and The Wildlife Trust – were invited into a working group to share views, ideas and proposals for future minerals extraction that support biodiversity restoration, Water Framework Directive (WFD) objectives and ecosystem services contributions.
An initial workshop was held in July 2014 to begin to address the following objectives:
- Assess current opportunities for restoration and a gap analysis of future sites that deliver a more cohesive outcome – maximising biodiversity gain by identifying:
- Biodiversity-led restoration as a priority
- Identifying priority habitats
- Agreeing minimum patch sizes for priority habitats
- Assess current opportunities for partnership in delivering restorations – economy of resources and long term management
- Assess current opportunities for green infrastructure, ecosystem services and WFD
- Assess current and future opportunities to produce a central vision for the Trent Valley from excavation to landscape restoration.
To build on the willingness to work in partnership to support a better outcome for biodiversity-led restoration that had been expressed at the initial July meeting, NAM organised a second workshop in February 2015. The objectives of the second workshop were to:
- Develop an agreed ‘informing document’ that sets out a strategic, co-ordinated and landscape scale approach to biodiversity-led restoration of the cluster of mineral sites
- Identify and agree how to use the ‘informing document’ to influence the Nottinghamshire Minerals Local Plan and minerals development / restoration in the project area.
It was decided that the ‘informing document’ should focus on the extant and proposed mineral sites for the Minerals Local Plan period – i.e. to 2030 (see Figure 1 above), so therefore review of current mineral sites, proposed allocations and the restoration proposals for these, including which priority habitats were feasible. The outcome was the aspiration to ensure that restorations of individual sites are complementary, so collectively deliver better biodiversity outcomes than they would individually. It was acknowledged that detailed restoration proposals for individual sites will depend to some extent on site specific issues such as depth of mineral, depth of overburden, hydrology etc..
Meanwhile, habitat creation aspirations in this area maybe constrained by limited overburden (for reshaping the landform), and the adopted policies not to import inert fill material; this is likely to result in more significant areas of open water. The key issue then will be the extent to which marginal wetland habitat can be created through forming gentle slopes at the water’s edge (with material generated by ‘over-digging’ some areas to provide material for these shallower margins).
Additional uses and benefits (beyond that of priority habitat creation) of the area could be gained by taking a co-ordinated approach to biodiversity-led restorations across this cluster of mineral sites. A list of added benefits includes: access and sense of place; flood relief; water framework directive,; economic uplift in communities (e.g. through tourism); agricultural benefits - pollination / grazing.
Outputs included a report of proceedings of the workshop, and a commitment to this being a partnership project. A further outcome was Tarmac (the main company operating in the area) offering to develop a ‘concept plan’ of how the restored area might look, and the habitats that could be created. ‘Ownership’ of the vision by the key stakeholders will be vital in ensuring this project continues to move forward.
The outcome of these workshops will be the ‘informing document’, to influence the Nottinghamshire Minerals Local Plan and minerals development and restoration in the area up until 2030. This will incorporate the concept plan.
How this best practice is transferable
This project is still in early development, however already it is has demonstrated a positive, joined up approach with stakeholders working together for a shared vision, which presents a strong common goal to the operators and mineral planning authorities, and avoids developers being pulled in different directions trying to accommodate many different views. The process model used in this project is already used as a case study for other landscape scale initiatives across the UK.
Working with the operators in developing a future vision and supporting them to take ownership alongside other stakeholders will help guarantee that the project will continue to maintain momentum and result in a positive outcome for biodiversity within this part of the Trent and Tame.