BSG Ecology was commissioned by Aggregate Industries UK Limited to provide ecological advice regarding a minerals planning application for the expansion of an existing quarry in Gloucestershire. The proposed expansion will involve the extraction of 3.2 million tonnes of sand and gravel with the primary aim of ensuring continuity of aggregates supply in and around the Cotswold region. BSG Ecology worked as the ecologists on the scheme between 2008 and 2013. The 80ha site is predominantly arable in nature and characterised by the presence of mature species rich hedgerows and regionally rare species including native black poplar trees¹and tufted sedge².
BSG Ecology’s role in the project
BSG Ecology was initially appointed to undertake a baseline ecological appraisal of the site in 2008 in order to determine whether there were likely to be any ecological constraints associated with the quarrying proposals. Following an extended Phase 1 habitat survey of the site, desk study and stakeholder consultation, a range of ecological receptors required further consideration. A comprehensive suite of further surveys was subsequently undertaken that were necessary to determine the ecological baseline of the site. These data were used to underpin the preparation of an ecological impact assessment as part of an overall Environmental Statement (ES) that accompanied the minerals planning application. Key ecological receptors requiring consideration as part of the scheme included nearby designated sites, bats, barn owl, badger, tufted sedge and black poplar.
Badgers were one of the more complex receptors due to the number of badger territories present within the site which were identified following detailed bait marking and mapping studies. BSG Ecology worked closely with the client and project design team to develop a viable quarrying and restoration scheme that addressed this and other ecological constraints.
As a supplement to the ES, BSG Ecology prepared a mitigation plan for incorporation into the proposed quarrying operations and phased restoration plans. The agreed mitigation proposals would result in a neutral impact on all the identified ecological receptors within and adjacent to the site. Mitigation required the need to secure licences for work affecting bats and badgers. Permission was also required to remove important hedgerows. The mitigation also included translocation of tufted sedge and measures for bats, reptiles, barn owl and breeding birds. Generic Mitigation measures to control dust, light and noise/ vibration pollution were also built into the scheme. A key part of the Mitigation Plan was the strategy to accommodate the four badger territories through a phased quarrying and restoration approach. This included a translocation plan to ensure impacts on each badger social group within the site were minimised whilst enabling the quarry works to continue to the proposed schedule. The mitigation strategy was set out in a clear concise document to allow Aggregate Industries to adhere to all relevant ecological planning policies and legislation throughout the entire thirty year quarrying and restoration process.
Working closely with the project team, BSG Ecology ensured that the complexities of the ecological mitigation measures required were integrated into the phased timescales of the quarrying and restoration proposals. The Environmental Statement was submitted to the Local Planning Authority in December 2013 and is currently awaiting determination.
¹ The most recent survey undertaken by Cooper et al. (2002) estimates there are only 7000 black poplar trees within the UK, of which 600 are female. Holland (1992) identified 355 Trees between 1973 and 1992 in Gloucestershire and parts of North Wiltshire. The presence of this species on Site (eight individuals), especially the six females, is therefore of regional importance.
² The population of tufted sedge on site is of regional importance as this is only the second record for Gloucestershire and is one of nine 10km square records for southern England (excluding East Anglia) (BSBI 2013)