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Quarries Help Wildlife Out of a Hole

?sites have the potential to be fantastic habitat?

The quarries that dot the English landscape could become safe havens for its rarest wildlife thanks to work by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. More than 400 square miles of the country has planning permission for mineral extraction. More than half – 1,300 quarries covering 247 square miles - are active and minerals firms are increasingly keen to see sites restored for wildlife after they have finished working them. To help make sure habitats created in that restoration are the best and most suitable for the area, the RSPB is developing a unique online guide to quarry restoration.The website, which is due to go online early next year, will be powered by a huge database of information about every mineral site in England, compiled at the RSPB’s headquarters in Sandy, Beds. Mineral firms and planners will be able to zoom in on individual sites and find out which habitats they are most suited to becoming. They will also be able to get advice on how to create that habitat, get an idea of the costs involved and read about similar, successful projects elsewhere. The RSPB hopes that by using the website firms can turn what are currently holes in the ground into homes for some of the nation’s scarcest landscapes and creatures.Nigel Symes, the RSPB’s land management advisor, said: Quarries and mineral workings are a fact of life and the RSPB accepts there is a need for aggregates. What we want to see is the best possible return for wildlife when these sites reach the end of their useful lives. The problem has been that for many, many years there was often an assumption sites would only go back to farmland without exploring other options. But times are changing and this is one of the catalysts for that change. We are delighted we’ve had positive responses from planning authorities, which reflects a much more imaginative approach to restoring quarry sites. It’s really pleasing. I get a sense they are really quite excited about this and it’s a really good opportunity. We are providing them with a tool.Alice Davies, the project officer who has spent the last 18 months putting together the new website, said: These sites have the potential to be fantastic habitat for wildlife and for people to use and we are working with the industry to do that.

All kinds of habitats could be created, from wetlands to heathland.

Mark Avery, the RSPB’s director of conservation, said: Old quarries can be great places for wildlife providing they are restored in the right ways. This is a great opportunity for our generation to create wildlife-rich areas, which will help compensate for earlier losses of wildlife. This is positive nature conservation in action! The new landscapes created could also help the Government achieve its goal of stopping the loss of our bio-diversity – the number of different species native to Britain – by 2010. The RSPB’s work has been funded by the government, through the Mineral Industry Research Organisation (MIRO).

A spokesman for MIRO said: new GIS tool from the RSPB will provide essential information for planning and undertaking restoration schemes. The ability to understand what type of vegetation is best suited to the site environmental conditions along with information on costs, techniques and examples will be a useful tool for extraction companies and restoration practitioners. He added: This tool will provide very important information on how a site can be restored to achieve long term biodiversity targets and understand changes in the nature of the restoration habitat over time making it a very useful tool for understanding short and long term management requirements.NB The former Office for the Deputy Prime Minister carried out a ‘survey of land for mineral workings in England’ in 2000. It identified more than 113,500 hectares with planning permission. As a result of the work carried out for the Minerals Restoration Potential project, the RSPB has calculated that in 2005 there were 1,300 sites covering 64,000 hectares with active permissions.

4th July 2014