Examination of Witnesses (Questions 151
WEDNESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2001
Chairman: Mr Smyth, Mr Clarke, Mr Fidgett, thank
you very much for coming, and for waiting. I am sorry that we
have delayed you a little. Will you, when you first speak, give
your name so that the sound recorder can pick up your tone of
voice? We want to ask you about aggregates production in the Northern
Ireland economy. Mr McGrady will lead.
151. Welcome, gentlemen. I will begin with a
very easy question. The Quarry Products Association and the British
Aggregates Association have made strong arguments about the importance
of the aggregates industry contributing to the economy and the
aggregate industry of the United Kingdom as a whole. But you,
unusually, add another benefit which I have not yet seen, so perhaps
you would like to develop it for me. Unusually, you refer to land
restoration and to the enhanced biodiversity as benefits from
aggregates production. This is somehow contrary to the concept
of a lay person. Can you expand a little further on that?
(Mr Fidgett) We have added that into the benefits.
It is one of the things that is readily overlooked in relation
to the quarrying industry, which is a feature of the industry
across the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland and the
rest of Britain. All planning permissions for quarrying that have
been issued in the past 20 years, and, indeed, historical permissions
that are now being reviewed in accordance with recent legislation,
require the restoration of quarries to a beneficial after-use.
The majority, perhaps 60 per cent or more, has traditionally gone
back to agricultural land. But increasingly after-uses have tended
towards amenity use, such as country parks and so on, or to nature
conservation. English Nature recently undertook an assessment
of all SSSIs and where they derived from in terms of their creation.
Some are obviously natural, going back generations, and others
have been created through mineral working. Between one-third and
a half of all SSSIs in EnglandI accept that statistically
that does not necessarily cover Northern Irelandrelate
to sites created through quarrying activity. There is a real biodiversity
benefit in terms of land restoration.
152. Do you have a figure for Northern Ireland?
(Mr Fidgett) I don't have the figure for Northern
(Mr Clarke) 65 of the 179 operative quarries in Northern
Ireland are sand and gravel pits. All sand and gravel pits are
reinstated as part of the conditions of planning or of getting
land from the farmer, as was alluded to earlier, and they are
probably in better condition than a lot of hills and things are
where wildlife has been removed generally.
153. Would you be able to find out what percentage
of former quarries are now SSSIs in Northern Ireland? That would
be a very interesting statistic if it is as high in Northern Ireland
as you tell us it is in England.
(Mr Fidgett) I will certainly endeavour to do that.
It is an interesting statistic.
154. They may be reinstated. Are you saying
that they are used for landfill?
(Mr Clarke) No. With the sand and gravel situation
generally, the position is that you go in and strip off the topsoil
and push it to one side. You then excavate the sand and gravel,
relocate the washings back into the excavation and replace the
topsoil and reinstate and leave the farmer back his land.
155. I recall that as a boy I used to go fishing
in old gravel pits in places in places such as Nazeing which were
used as fishing lakes.
(Mr Clarke) If one goes below the water table the
situation is different. Generally in the north of Ireland, excavations
do not go below the water table.
(Mr Fidgett) There are generally two types of restoration;
drywhich is back to agriculture where the water table is
lowand, in situations such as that to which you referred,
restoration is often to lakes, with additional reed-bed or other
marginal habitat that contributes significantly to biodiversity.
There are proven case studies that form the basis of handbooks
that the QPA have done work on with the nature conservation organisations
to sign joint statements of intent in this regard.
156. Just so that I am clear, you are the Executive
Secretary of the CBI Minerals Committee. Is that CBI Northern
Ireland, or CBI.
(Mr Smyth) No, just CBI.
157. You are not a Northern Ireland man?
(Mr Fidgett) No, Sir we cover the whole of the United
158. You two gentlemen are from the CBI Northern
(Mr Smyth) No, I am Nigel Smyth, the director of the
CBI, full-time, in Northern Ireland. Ralph Clarke is managing
director of ReadyUse Ltd.
159. And a member of the CBI based in Northern
(Mr Smyth) Correct.