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MPA Quarries & Nature 2015

First published in the December 2015 issue of Quarry Management

How the mineral products industry is playing a key role in building on Britain’s Natural Capital

The mineral products industry has long been delivering innovative and imaginative high-quality restoration and management of quarries, and is in a unique position to deliver more and contribute to the country’s stock of Natural Capital. This was the message from the Mineral Products Association’s ‘Quarries & Nature 2015 – Building on Britain’s Natural Capital’ event, hosted by BBC ‘Countryfile’ presenter Helen Skelton, on Wednesday 14 October at The Royal Society, London, with more than 60 different environmental and conservation organizations in attendance.

Taking place on the same day that the Government launched its 25-year Environment Plan, the event celebrated the excellent work Mineral Products Association (MPA) member companies are undertaking by showcasing some of the best examples of quarry restoration and wildlife conservation anywhere in Europe, via the MPA Restoration Awards, MPA Biodiversity Awards (in association with Natural England) and the inaugural MPA Nature Photo competition.

A Natural Capital accounting pilot study at Tarmac’s Mancetter Quarry, in Warwickshire, set the scene for a panel debate with distinguished experts Prof. Dieter Helm, former chairman of the Natural Capital Committee, Alan Law, chief strategy and reform officer with Natural England, and Tony Juniper, one of the best-known names in environmental campaigning.

The MPA’s chief executive, Nigel Jackson, said: ‘We are celebrating and showcasing some of the wonderful things our industry is doing for biodiversity and wider environmental, social and economic benefits. As well as delivering improvements in biodiversity and natural beauty for their own sake, we deliver other benefits and services, such as public access, culture and recreation, water management, and carbon sequestration, through working, management and restoration of land.

‘This event reaffirms that this is an industry that is uniquely placed to deliver not only biodiversity, but also wider benefits contributing to the stock of ‘Natural Capital’.’

Natural England’s chief strategy and reform officer, Alan Law, said: ‘We are delighted to be working with the MPA on the Landscape-scale biodiversity award again this year. The award always attracts fantastic examples of companies working in partnership with others to enhance and build the network of places supporting our wildlife.

‘This brings to life the vision to make places better for wildlife, making them bigger, creating more and joining them up. This is particularly impressive where there are clear win-wins for the businesses, wildlife and landscape, and the local communities. Biodiversity underpins the country’s Natural Capital and so the landscape-scale projects led by minerals companies are not only enhancing wildlife, but also building the local Natural Capital.’

Environmental campaigner and writer Tony Juniper said: ‘The conservation debate has moved on. It’s no longer only about protecting rare species and habitats from development and pollution, but is also now about restoring nature, and not only for its own sake, but so that society can benefit from the many wonderful things the natural world does for us. A number of industries have realized that they have a key role to play and are demonstrating how it is possible, through some thoughtful planning and modest investment of resources, to achieve really outstanding results. Mineral products companies in the MPA are among the real leaders.’

The MPA’s long-standing Restoration Awards, now in their 45th year, recognize such exceptional practice. This year the coveted Cooper-Heyman Cup for outstanding achievement in restoration went to Hanson UK – in partnership with landowner Geoffrey Hemus, the RSPB, Aston Villa FC and the Middleton Hall Trust – for Middleton Hall Quarry, Warwickshire. The project at the 470ha site has produced a mix of football pitches, reed beds, woodland, pasture and fishing. Hanson worked closely with the Environment Agency on experimental extraction of gravel from the river bank which created islands, gravel bars and other features to enhance the habitat value and help alleviate flooding in the wider area.

The third MPA Biodiversity Awards once again attracted an excellent range of entries from both large and small companies, providing a showcase of the diverse projects that minerals companies are undertaking to help nature. The overall winner of the Natural England Award for Landscape-scale Restoration was Batts Combe and Callow Rock in Somerset, a joint entry from Hanson and Aggregates Industries. The companies’ landholdings in the area together cover around 450ha and work has been under way for the last 20 years. The judges were particularly impressed by the joint working with Somerset Wildlife Trust and Natural England to target conservation work to ensure maximum benefits were delivered in creating and managing calcareous grassland, woodland and hedgerow habitats to expand and join them up with the surrounding area.

Winners of the Innovation category were two projects being undertaken by CEMEX to assist in the conservation of two rare bird species – the twite and the turtle dove – whose presence in the UK is at risk. The judges were particularly impressed by the joint working with the RSPB and the innovative and imaginative approach to providing habitats in Derbyshire (for the twite) and Warwickshire (for the turtle dove).

The winners of the Planned Restoration category were Smith & Sons (Bletchington) for their extension to Gill Mill Quarry in West Oxfordshire. The restoration plan includes the creation of 120ha of priority habitats, including one of the largest reed beds in southern England (60ha). The judges were particularly impressed by the scale and ambition of the project, and that the design reflects the views of conservation bodies, the local community, the local authority and the Ministry of Defence. The site lies under the flight path of RAF Brize Norton and the extensive reed bed will help to reduce the risk of birdstrike for aircraft while providing habitat for rare species, including bittern, water vole and otter.

The winner of the award for Individual Achievement was Tarmac’s Chris Pennock for his work at Nosterfield Quarry in North Yorkshire. Over the years Mr Pennock has been instrumental in the management of the site, growing the number of visitors and educating people about the site and its wildlife. His personal interest and research into the black poplar has resulted in him developing partnerships with the local council and conservation groups, and propagating trees for planting in the quarry to help conserve this rare species.

MPA Special Awards for outstanding contributions were presented to the following: Tarmac, for their pioneering work on Natural Capital at Mancetter Quarry; Anthony Allday, assistant quarry manager at Aggregates Industries’ Greystone Quarry, Cornwall, for personal dedication to bee-keeping; and Hills Group, Hanson UK, Cullimore Group, Aggregate Industries and Tarmac, for their contribution to the restoration of The Cotswold Water Park in Gloucestershire.

The MPA’s first Nature Photo Competition attracted a number of stunning entries from company employees and from RSPB and Wildlife Trust volunteers. Winner of the Employee category was Michael Cardus from Tarmac’s Dry Rigg Quarry at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire, for his ‘Swallows nesting in a power shed at the quarry’. Winner of the Volunteer category was John Kaczanow, Wildlife Trust and BTO volunteer, for his ‘Juvenile peregrine falcon – The last to fledge’. The judging was guided by wildlife educationalist Kate Macrae, BBC ‘Farming Today’ presenter and writer Sybil Ruscoe, and wildlife photographer Russell Savory.

For full details of all the winners and runners-up in the Restoration Awards, Biodiversity Awards and inaugural Nature Photo Competition, visit the MPA’s Quarries & Nature web zone

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