Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out




This proposal is a Vision for the use of quarries in Leicestershire after they are worked out.
Abandoned hard rock quarries have few uses and the use that Leicestershire has historically
made is landfill. At least this restores the land area and gives the restored land some potential
uses. The only other uses are for recreation and Nature and abandoned quarries have been
used for scuba diving, shooting ranges, climbing, fishing, and unofficial kids playgrounds
with wildlife filling in the gaps. If quarrying leaves suitable rock faces, then quarries provide
rock for climbers to climb on. The Avon Gorge in Bristol is a classic example. Quarrying
destroys some habitats but it also creates new ones which are more bio-diverse. Quarries give
geological exposures. Disused quarries could therefore have considerable potential as
pseudo-natural amenity areas. What, therefore, can be done today to enhance this potential in
the future?

In October 2009 Leicestershire County Council approved a new Minerals Development
Framework and also a Waste Development Framework. The Minerals Framework shows
that, while the quarrying of hard rock in Leicestershire is economically of local significance,
the product is of strategic national importance. This is simply because the Leicestershire hard
rock is the closest to the population (and hence building) of South East England and transport
costs are a significant part of the cost of the provision of aggregates.

When the Minerals Framework is compared to the Waste Framework, a mismatch appears.
Approximately 14 million tonnes per year (Mt/y) of igneous rock are quarried, yet the County
produces only 4 Mt/y of waste. With recycling this reduces to 1.3 Mt/y. Any incinerators
reduce the landfill requirement still further. So, with current EU, National and County plans,
and the Landfill Tax, Leicestershire is producing “hole” at a very significant rate (about 4
Mm3/y). Even without recycling and incineration, the mismatch is not sustainable. Sometime
in the future Leicestershire is going to be left with a lot of “hole” - cubic kilometers of it.

Leicestershire’s problem is illustrated by the plan submitted for Newhurst Quarry at
Shepshed. Biffa’s current (landfill) permission restores, after about 25 years, what is
currently a void into a small hill open to the public. Their new proposal is for just an
incinerator. Virtually no restoration of the void is proposed which will be abandoned to
slowly flood and become a useless derelict eyesore. If the tiny Newhurst Quarry cannot be
restored then the only option for the proportionately vast quarries in the rest of Leicestershire
will be the same.

An example of this is Cliffe Hill Quarry for which the 2007 reinstatement plan shows flooded
voids with almost no attempt at integrating them into the area as an amenity. If a quarry void
is to be allowed to flood as part of a “restoration” scheme, then how long should this be
allowed to take? Rainfall in Leicestershire (actually Sutton Bonnington) is about
600mm/year, but evaporation almost matches it so the net annual gain is much smaller.
Usually the catchment area is greater than the void area. Let us be generous and assume that
the water level in the void rises at 0.5 metres per year. At this rate a void 100 metres deep
takes 200 years to fill. It will fill fast at first and then progressively slow. Over this time
frame, “restoration” by flooding becomes meaningless.

Government guidance for hard rock quarries (MPG7) suggests Landform Replication and
routine “scaling” of rock faces (C21 and C22) and, providing they are complied with, both
should leave faces suitable for rock climbing and amenity, even though they may eventually
(100 years, say) be flooded. Faces above the flood level would last forever. The slight extra
expense of high quality face stabilisation should be borne by the operators or landowner. It is
already in the current guidance but is not generally complied with.
One can estimate of the potential of the Leicestershire quarries for rock climbing. Take the
Mountsorrel Quarry at Buddon Wood. From the 2006 satellite image one can estimate the
length of benching as about 15km. Stanage Edge in the Peak District is about 6km long, not
all of which is climbable, and this probably constitutes about 10% of all of the climbing in the
Peak District. So the Buddon Quarry alone could contain the equivalent of about a
quarter of all of the climbable rock in the Peak District. And Leicestershire has three
other similar sized quarries. And the Leicestershire rock is more easily accessed for
many of the UK’s population. Looked at like this, Leicestershire could easily be of
national significance as a climbing county with some of the economic tourism benefits
that the Peak District has gained.

A first step would be to establish whether the quarrymen of today, after aggregate, could create
rock faces suitable for rock climbing. Their grandfathers, who were after dimension stone, could
do it - the delightful Craig Buddon near Swithland reservoir is an example. But can they? With
modern ANFO explosive, rock shattering is the technical problem that the operators need to solve.
Ideally, each quarry company would earmark suitable, preferably isolated, upper benching and see
if they could scale it sufficiently or re-blast using softer explosive so as to leave it stable and at the
right gradient for climbing. Such sites might accommodate footpaths as well. Subsequently these
sites might be made Access Land.

The next step would be whether the people of Leicestershire would wish to shape a County plan
requiring high quality stabilisation to be the default restoration plan in a modified County Minerals
Development Framework. This Framework might include:
i) “Restoration” can be amenity use of a quarry void,
ii) Landform Replication is adopted where practicable,
iii) Suitable stabilisation of final rock exposures is carried out,
iv) Restoration is started as soon as practicable,
v) Restoration is conducted concurrently with extraction,
vi) Access should be concurrent with Restoration where practicable,
vii) Restoration (including flooding) is completed within 5 years of extraction ceasing.
viii) Each restored site to have an Endowment Maintenance Fund paid for by the operator
or landowner

Geoff Mason, 21 Feb 2011
77 Park Road, Loughborough, Leics LE11 2HD

Appendix 1 Origin of the Vision. Letter concerning Bardon Quarry
Appendix 2 The geo-demographics of quarrying and climbing
Appendix 3 Current and future potential climbing locations in Leicestershire
Appendix 4 Requirements to make rock suitable for climbing
Appendix 5 Types of climbing
Appendix 6 Risks associated with climbing
Appendix 7 Why do we climb? Colin Kirkus, 1941
Appendix 8 An introduction to occupiers’ liability
Appendix 9 How long does a quarry take to flood?
Appendix 10. Case study, Horseshoe Quarry, Derbyshire
Appendix 11. Requirements for a dive site

To top