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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Aggregate Industries move water voles to safe place

Water vole

Company invests more than £200,000 in mass migration of endangered species to safe place

HELPING to safeguard cherished wildlife in their areas of operation, this spring saw Aggregate Industries complete a major water vole relocation in one of the company’s biggest conservation projects to date.

The much-loved water vole was once a common sight in the UK, but due to a combination of habitat loss and water pollution, it is now the country’s fastest declining wild mammal, the population having fallen by as much as 30% in the last 10 years.

Understandably, therefore, when planning to embark on a major modification of the company’s flagship satellite quarry on the Isle of Grain in Kent – involving extending works on a new area of land identified to have water vole habitats – Aggregate Industries took every measure possible to negate any impact on the endangered species.

Following approval from Natural England and working alongside Derek Gow Consultants, the UK’s leading expert in water vole conservation, the business embarked upon a four-week capture programme, which also involved the safe migration of the water voles to a dedicated safe place in Exeter while the modification works take place.

Rough terrain, difficulties in gaining access and operations in progress, as well as high levels of rainfall causing flooding, meant a number of challenges had to be managed very closely to ensure the programme’s delivery. However, thanks to the commitment and hard work of all involved, all the water voles were successfully migrated to their specially designed, temporary new home.

Testament to Aggregate Industries’ commitment to safeguarding the ecology in the areas where they operate, this initial aspect of the project has cost in excess of £200,000.

Steve Campbell, project manager at Aggregate Industries, commented: ‘It’s a real tragedy, but the reality is that the much-loved water vole, once a staple of our British wildlife, is veering towards extinction if current rates of decline continue. As such, as a business deeply committed to ecological responsibility, we feel very passionate about doing our bit to help.

‘That’s why, back in 2014, when we first appointed an ecology expert to carry out a full assessment of the land we were planning to work on, and a large number of water voles were identified, we wanted to do everything in our power to keep them out of harm’s way.

‘It’s been a long and arduous process but well worth it – it was wonderful to see the voles safely arrive in their temporary new home, and we are happy to say they have settled in soundly.’

Reflecting on Aggregate Industries approach to the migration process, Derek Gow commended the team for their efforts: ‘In comparing this project to others in and around London taking place right now, Aggregate Industries demonstrated a greater understanding of the tasks than I’ve seen at any other sites,’ he said.

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