We may see a new way of restoring mineral sites like sand and gravel pits if our proposals are given the go ahead. An example of this is the Moors Project.
Traditionally, mineral sites are restored by filling the holes with waste material. Sometimes this is inert material like rubble from demolished buildings. However in many parts of Surrey these sites have provided an essential place to dispose of household waste. Increasingly we are beginning to understand that in environmental terms this is not always acceptable.
Over the years, the unsorted waste rots and, in some cases can release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and leachate - liquid which can pollute groundwater. European legislation is forcing local authorities to find alternative ways of disposing of waste and the landfill tax gives an economic reason not to bury our rubbish.
Landfill has been used to restore land in our countryside - almost always to an agricultural use. But, as the nature of British farming changes, demand for agricultural restoration is lessening. Other types of after use are now being considered.
So, in many cases, a new approach to holes needs to be devised: one which recognises that there are alternatives to simply filling them in to restore the land to agricultural use. We have put forward new proposals which local people and organisations will be invited to consider.
These proposals recommend:
- The highest quality of restoration
- Not filling some of the mineral working back to their original level
- Finding schemes which restore or even enhance the landscape after the minerals have been extracted
- Creating new opportunities for recreation or nature conservation
- Making land restored for agriculture more in keeping with the increasingly diverse needs of farmers in the future
Many excavations for minerals like sand and gravel go below the water table. This means that without the more traditional infilling with waste, the sites will contain a lake. This, plus the surrounding areas of 'new' land offer almost unlimited opportunities to create sites for recreation - perhaps for sailing or angling, not forgetting new havens for wildlife - perhaps using local seed to create native grasslands or wet areas for birds like ducks and waders to feed or breed. These restorations won't just be stark holes in the ground but carefully landscaped so that they fit in with their surroundings.
The challenge is to find a variety of uses that enhance the local landscape and provide facilities for the ever-growing number of people who want to take part in outdoor recreation activities. For local residents near some sites, the new proposals may take away the threat of years of lorries delivering waste during or after the period when the minerals are being extracted.
For future generations, the uncertainty of what happens to rotting waste buried in the ground is taken away. This can only be good news.
For further details on Restoration and Enhancement Schemes on Mineral Sites please call us on 03456 009 009.