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Planning Process

How can the mineral planning authority influence the creation of new landforms and restoration to high standards?

One of the key principles of planning policy and control has for some time, been the need to ensure that mineral extraction is seen as a temporary land use that is able to return the land back to a beneficial condition following the end of mineral working. A great deal of work has been undertaken by the minerals industry, the Government and other statutory bodies in this regard. As a result there is now a good understanding of many of the techniques needed to ensure good quality restoration and in many cases, ensure that the after use of sites contributes positively to the environment or to other desirable objectives.

Understanding what can be achieved and how this can be secured is important in seeking to ensure that the overall standard of restoration is closer to that of best practice and that restoration contributes to other objectives, including nature conservation and biodiversity, landscape enhancement, social progress and economic development.

Introduction
Unlike built development such as housing, mineral working is regarded as a temporary use of the land. In effect, the land is only borrowed and can in most cases be returned to another beneficial land use, including agriculture, nature conservation and other uses.

It is also often the case that restoration can be undertaken on a progressive basis, such that the minimum area of the site is operational and hence subject to disturbance at any one time. While this is not possible with certain operations, for example where the depth of the workings is significant, it is a reasonable objective in many cases.
     
Land is only borrowed and can in most cases be returned to another beneficial land use, including agriculture and nature conservation.
 
Middleton Top Quarry

Biodiversity in a restored quarry.

  Restoration process of a quarry site.

Restoration process of a quarry site.

Inevitably, as a result of quarrying activities the characteristics of land will have been changed. Where this has been done without careful site restoration it can have a permanent adverse effect on the environment. While the standard of modern restoration is generally very high, some very old mineral workings have become problematic as a result of unsatisfactory restoration and others are sometimes not of the standard that might be expected.

Most mineral companies are now responsible operators, but modern mineral working is an intensive and sometimes industrialised operation, which if left unrestored or uncontrolled could have a serious detrimental effect on the environment. It is the role of Mineral Planning Authorities to ensure that land is not permanently lost and that mineral workings are properly restored and controlled to minimise the overall impact of working and ensure a long term maintenance or enhancement of the environment.
     
In both biodiversity and landscape terms, quarrying activities can, and often does, result in significant environmental benefits.
 
Quarrying activities can also result in opportunities for enhanced habitats. In both biodiversity and landscape terms, quarrying activities can, and often does, result in significant environmental benefits. Indeed, there are many examples where rich environments have been created by the quarrying industry, and are now designated as Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI).

There should therefore be sufficient incentive for both the industry and MPAs to work together in partnership. Best practice within the aggregates sector is promoted and reinforced by trade bodies, such as the Quarry Products Association (QPA) and British Aggregates Association (BAA). In particular, the QPA have run a Restoration Awards Scheme, promoting the best examples of restoration achieved within the industry each year and operate an industry Restoration Guarantee Scheme that also helps ensure that restoration commitments are met. These accompany industry initiatives, often linked with environmental organisations including English Nature, to promote biodiversity and cultural initiatives as part of quarry working and restoration.

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