The reedy fringe of Elney Lake, at Fen Drayton RSPB reserve, Cambridgeshire, England. February 2007.

Minerals planning

Mineral sites play an essential role in helping to halt and reverse ongoing declines in biodiversity in the UK.

The importance of minerals

Mineral sites play an essential role in helping to halt and reverse ongoing declines in biodiversity in the UK.

The scale of this potential contribution to biodiversity was first identified in the report ‘Nature After Minerals: how mineral sites restoration can benefit people and wildlife’, which was published in 2006. This report identified that mineral sites had the potential to deliver 100 per cent of the national habitat creation targets for nine priority habitats, including reedbed, lowland heathland and wet grassland.

This contribution has also been acknowledged more recently in the ‘State of Nature Report 2016’, which identifies habitat creation as being one of the most significant drivers of positive change for the UK’s wildlife. The report points out much of this habitat creation has taken place on mineral sites, predominantly through the creation of new wetland sites, including reedbeds, open water and marshes.

One of the biggest and best examples of habitat creation on a mineral site is provided by Needingworth quarry, Cambridgeshire. This quarry is progressively being restored to create the biggest reedbed in the UK, at some four square kilometres, and is being managed as the RSPB Ouse Fen reserve. The creation of reedbeds on mineral sites such as Ouse Fen has contributed to one of the country’s greatest conservation success stories – bitterns - with the bittern population in England and Wales having increased from just 11 booming males in 1997 to 156 in 2015.

Minerals Local Plans

Minerals Local Plans (MLPs) provide a key mechanism for ensuring mineral sites continue to deliver these biodiversity benefits in the future.

MLPs set out policies which specify the amount of mineral which needs to be extracted over a period of time, the circumstances under which minerals development will be permitted, where minerals development should take place and how mineral sites should be restored.

Any minerals development is expected to comply with the policies of the MLP.

General views of floodplain grassland, Greylake RSPB reserve, Somerset Levels, England

Nature After Minerals

Nature After Minerals (NAM) is a partnership programme led by the RSPB with support from Natural England, the Mineral Products Association and the British Aggregates Association.

They work with RSPB colleagues around the country to influence these MLPs to ensure that they contain strong biodiversity and mineral site restoration policies.

Many MLPs now promote the delivery of a net-gain in biodiversity, including the creation of priority habitat. Exemplar MLPs also promote a landscape-scale approach to habitat creation on mineral sites, where appropriate.

For example, they encourage clusters of mineral sites to work together to collectively deliver more biodiversity than they could individually. An example of this approach is provided by the publication ‘Giving nature a home in the Trent Valley: Newark to South Clifton Concept Plan’.

Further advice on using the mineral planning system to deliver net-gains for biodiversity through the minerals planning system can be found on the Nature After Minerals website.