O&H Properties Ltd (O&H) owns a number of large former brick pits in the Marston Vale, Bedfordshire, which were created following the extraction of clay required for the brick-making industry. The Rookery is made up of two large clay pits (210ha). Extraction from the northern pit ceased in the 1970s, and in the mid 1980s from the southern pit. The northern pit has already been restored by way of partial backfilling and flooding; the southern pit remains to be restored.
As part of the provisions of the Environment Act (1995) a Review of Old Mineral Permissions (ROMP) was required to update the approved planning conditions for the Rookery specifically including an update to the restoration proposals.
Significant ecological interest had developed in the pits following the cessation of clay extraction and BSG Ecology was engaged by the landowner to determine baseline ecological conditions, to complete an ecology chapter for the accompanying Environmental Statement and to develop and agree an ecological mitigation strategy with key stakeholders. These included Natural England and the Minerals Planning Authority.
A programme of ecology surveys revealed that important invertebrate and aquatic plant communities, as well as a large population of great crested newts, were well established in the southern pit. We developed a detailed mitigation strategy to inform the restoration, involving the use of on-site and off-site receptor areas, the latter necessitating separate planning consent. The complex strategy was agreed with Natural England and subsequently authorised by the issue of a European Protected Species licence.
BSG Ecology supervised the necessary large-scale habitat restoration and creation works, the installation of a network of herpetological fencing in a very challenging environment, and the translocation of several thousand great crested newts from the western portion of the southern pit. The project is on-going and continues to require a flexible and co-operative approach, working closely with several parties, and responding to the changing conditions in the pit as well as the trapping data generated during translocation.