Cuesta is an independent geological and minerals planning consultancy firm, established in 2005 to provide specialist consultancy, research and expert witness services in geology, geomorphology (landforms and natural processes), minerals and the water environment.

Location Cuesta operates from the village of East Lambrook in Somerset (click here for map).

Meaning ‘escarpment’ Cuesta symbolises the link between geology, geomorphology and landscape.

Cuesta is operated by Dr Alan Thompson, a Chartered Geologist and Chartered Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute, supported when necessary by a range of other professional associates in closely related disciplines.  The company offers high quality, independent consultancy services to mineral operators and other private developers, to Minerals and Local Planning Authorities, and to Government Departments and Agencies. These services are offered throughout the UK and overseas.

Cuesta’s range of services, backed by sound expertise and more than 30 years of practical experience, includes:


  • geological desk studies and field mapping
  • robust interpretation of geological data
  • geological conservation, including geodiversity action plans


  • landform mapping and interpretation
  • analysis of aerial photographs and satellite images
  • investigation of natural processes and associated hazards, including:
    • river, coastal and groundwater flooding
    •  river and coastal erosion and sedimentation
    • land instability, including landslips and natural subsidence
    • geomorphological implications of climate change and sea level rise
  • geomorphological conservation and enhancement, including links with:
    • wider landscape evolution
    • archaeology
    •  biodiversity
  • photography of landscapes, landforms and geodiversity features

Minerals & Planning

  Click here to download pdf brochure of minerals project experience.

  • expert witness services at Local Plan Examinations and Public Inquiries
  • input to planning applications and Environmental Statements, including:
    • assessment of the ‘need’ for mineral extraction and consideration of alternatives
    • conservation and enhancement of geodiversity (geology, geomorphology and landscape)
    • design of mitigation and monitoring for the control of water environment impacts
    • advice on quarry excavation and restoration designs, including:
    • optimisation of mineral recovery to meet end-use specifications
    •  optimisation of environmental benefits and other ecosystem services
  • specialist advice on minerals policy development, with expertise in:
    • safeguarding of mineral resources
    • Local Aggregates Assessments
    • sand & gravel aggregates
    • silica sand
    • crushed rock, including high specification (skid-resistant) aggregates
    • natural building stone and roofing stone
  • technical support on wider policy development relating to:
    •  natural landscapes, including managing landscape change and geo-conservation
    • planning response to natural hazards (e.g. flooding, erosion, land instability)
    • adaptation to climate change (e.g. sea level rise, flood frequency, ground conditions)
  • independent geological advice on submitted planning applications

The Water Environment

  • baseline studies relating to groundwater and surface water
  • mitigation design
  • monitoring advice

Policy-Oriented Research & Reporting

With extensive previous experience in working for:

  • Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
  • Department of Communities & Local Government (CLG) (and predecessors)
  • Welsh Government (WG) (and predecessors)
  • English Heritage (EH)
  • Natural England (and predecessors)
  • The Environment Agency (EA)
  • Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)
  • Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • The Minerals Industry Research Organisation (MIRO)


Cuesta’s Director, Dr Alan Thompson, is a Chartered Geologist and a Chartered Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute, specialising in minerals planning. He has an honours degree in Physical Geography and Geology, a Ph.D. in Geomorphology, and more than 30 years research & consultancy experience in the practical application of these specialist skills.
Following doctoral and post-doctoral research on rivers, flooding, glacial processes and landscape evolution in northern England, Iceland and Norway, he worked for Liverpool University and later HJ Banks Ltd. on sand & gravel resource assessments in Shropshire, North Wales, Warwickshire, Cheshire and East Yorkshire.

In 1989 he joined Travers Morgan Limited (subsequently Symonds Travers Morgan, and Capita Symonds Ltd.), becoming the Head of Earth Sciences in 2000, responsible for a team of up to 15 geologists, hydrogeologists and geomorphologists. In 2005 he established Cuesta on a part time basis and in June 2012 left Capita Symonds to focus full-time on Cuesta business. He has been an active member of the Extractive Industry Geology (EIG) conferences organising committee since 2004, acting as Chairman between 2006 and 2008.
He is married with two grown-up children and, since 1996, has undertaken voluntary work for the Scout Association, acting as the Assistant District Commissioner for Scouts in Ashdown District, East Sussex from 2007 to 2013. Click here for Alan’s full CV.