Work has already started to breathe new life into the historic Arne ball clay works, on the Arne peninsula in the western reaches of Poole Harbour, which is no longer required for clay production.
The plan developed by Imerys - working closely with Dorset County Council, Natural England, the RSPB and Poole Harbour Commissioners - will see the open cast site reprofiled and replanted to create a rare saline lagoon habitat with salt marsh edges, surrounded by grass, heath and oak woodland.
When completed, it is expected that the site will provide home to a diverse range of wildlife species – potentially including nesting terns – and will complement and enhance nearby nature conservation habitats in Poole Harbour which already have European designation.
Chris Cleaves, Imerys Ball Clays General Manager, said: “Imerys takes very seriously its responsibility to restore its former clay pits and Arne ball clay works provides a wonderful opportunity to transform this former industrial facility into a truly special wildlife site.
“We are going to be moving about 160,000 tonnes of on-site material to restore the pit to a profile that will best realise its potential as a saline lagoon of high biodiversity interest. This involves maximising the area of shallow water and the establishment of a small island. Depending upon weather conditions, we look forward to completing the project next spring.”
Mark Singleton, RSPB visitor manager at the Arne Reserve, said: “We are so excited about this restoration project. The possibility of new breeding species on the reserve is one we relish. Common and sandwich terns are a definite, but there is the real exciting possibility of getting some firsts in Poole Harbour such as spoonbill or avocet.
“The extra feeding and roosting ground this project will provide in the winter is very important, with areas of exposed mud becoming gradually less due to sea level rise these new areas are critical for the internationally important numbers of wildfowl and waders that visit Poole Harbour.”
Liz Harris, Nature After Minerals Restoration Adviser in Dorset said: “This is a fantastic example of the contribution that the minerals industry is making to habitat creation and is the only restoration of its kind currently being undertaken in England.
“There are some wonderful nature reserves up and down the country which have already been created in former quarries. Research shows that if all environmentally suitable quarries in England were returned to high quality wildlife habitat we could meet 9 out of 11 of the Government’s targets for biodiversity and create thousands of hectares of space for nature, benefiting both threatened species and generations of nature lovers to come.”
Download full press release