Why is natural and built heritage significant?
Heritage is anything from the past, considered as the inheritance of present-day society. Natural and built heritage can include archaeological sites and monuments, and historically or architecturally interesting buildings, settlements, parks and landscapes. Representing largely irreplaceable cultural assets that can provide insight into past human activity in Britain, they are often assigned a protected status. The status will depend on the nature and importance of the asset, and includes Scheduled Ancient Monuments, World Heritage Sites, Listed Buildings, National Trust Land, Conservation Areas and Historic Parks and Gardens.
Although quarrying can help uncover unknown and important archaeological remains, its associated activities can also damage or destroy such remains, and can compromise the physical fabric, amenity value, and visual and cultural setting of historic structures and landscapes. These negative effects can be largely mitigated in advance when planning is informed by the identification and analysis of heritage sites through archaeological and heritage searches and as part of a comprehensive environmental impact assessment.
What are the effects of aggregates production on natural and built heritage?
In England there are currently 15 World Heritage sites, 18 300 Scheduled Ancient Monuments, 370 000 Listed Buildings, 272 000 hectares of National Trust Land, 9000 Conservation Areas, and 1 300 Historic Parks and Gardens. While the status assigned to these known-cultural assets has usually protected them from site based quarry processes, quarry processes beyond the extraction site can adversely affect them.
Increased traffic, noise, dust, emissions, and disruption to public access are all effects that can occur beyond the extraction site through quarrying related activities and that can compromise the physical fabric, amenity value and visual and cultural setting of these assets. The structural integrity of upstanding historic buildings and monuments can also be potentially affected by vibration from quarry blasting and by wetland site dewatering which can cause significant ground
settlement and subsidence in surrounding areas.
Excavating remains found during quarrying activity near the River Trent.
Often undetectable from the surface, archaeological remains represent cultural assets that are particularly vulnerable to quarry processes like the removal of surface soils, sedimentary deposits, overburden and rock.
The problem is accentuated in sand and gravel workings, which are often particularly rich in archaeological remains as they occur in river valleys that attracted past human settlement for their agricultural potential. While quarrying has often helped uncover unknown archaeological remains, the remains are usually fragile and vulnerable to damage or destruction when exposed or when subject to changes in ground conditions associated with quarrying removal and extraction processes. Ancillary activities in and around a quarry, such as vehicle movements, settlement lagoon construction, and the positioning of processing, storage or tipping areas can also damage archaeology due to surface disturbance and subsurface compaction. The overall archaeological ‘legibility’ of a locality can also be reduced if quarrying removes portions of archaeological sites, monuments or historic landscapes that extend into surrounding land, while the disruption or lowering of groundwater regimes inside and beyond the extraction footprint, can affect the preservation of waterlogged archaeological sites, causing shrinkage as well as acceleration in their decay.
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