Hanson creates Britain's largest reedbed
In May 2016, Hanson Aggregates transferred a further 96 hectares of land at the Needingworth quarry in Cambridgeshire to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The restored land is now part of the Ouse Fen nature reserve, which already covers 218 hectares and will eventually become the UK’s largest reedbed, providing habitats for bitterns, marsh harriers, otters and other wildlife.
Over the next 15 years, Hanson will progressively donate further small parcels of land as sand and gravel extraction is completed. The RSPB, partner organisation of BirdLife International in the UK, will manage and develop this land for nature conservation. When the final area of the quarry is handed over, the nature reserve will comprise 700 hectares.
Hanson UK senior sustainability manager, Martin Crow said: “This project shows that we can make a positive contribution to the UK’s landscape, its habitats and its biodiversity. It demonstrates the enormous benefits to be derived from working together, and the improvements that responsible mineral extraction can bring to the environment.”
Creation of new wetlands has been identified as a national priority in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, endorsed by government. Wetlands, like Ouse Fen, are needed to safeguard threatened birds and provide new habitat to offset projected future losses of internationally important coastal wetlands.
Increasing areas of this habitat remains one of the key targets in the Hanson UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Nature conservation faces a particular challenge here: Creating a peat-based fen is very difficult, as this requires conditions where new peat can form over many centuries. Restoring fens from low-level mineral extraction sites may provide the only real opportunity for long-term wetland creation.