Recent Cuesta projects

(listed in reverse order)

Public Inquiry - Mountsorrel Quarry

Following on from earlier work at Mountsorrel, Cuesta was engaged by Lafarge Tarmac in October 2014 to present evidence on the strategic national importance of the quarry, and the need for safeguarding the surrounding granite resources, at a Public Inquiry relating to a proposal for housing development on adjoining land.

Oxfordshire 2014 Local Aggregates Assessment

Cuesta provided expert geological and minerals planning input to this work by Land Use Consultants for Oxfordshire County Council. In compliance with the National Planning Policy Framework, the assessment was based on a 10-year sales average together with an analysis of local factors that were considered likely to influence future demand.  In the case of concreting sand & gravel and crushed rock, this entailed making upward adjustments to compensate for the fact that local production of these materials had been significantly reduced, during the recession, as a result of temporary commercial decisions by a major operator to mothball certain quarries and to delay the commencement of operation at another site, whilst importing crushed rock from elsewhere.

Assessment of the Need for Prior Extraction of Sand & Gravel Resources

Investigation of sand & gravel resources beneath a site being proposed for residential development in North Wales, on behalf of architects representing a private sector developer.  The site falls partly within a Minerals Safeguarding Area where the Local Plan policy requires the feasibility of prior extraction to be examined as part of the planning application.  Work has involved a rapid desk study of the local geology and available borehole information, and preparing recommendations for the scope of further ground investigations, should these be required by the Local Planning Authority.

Bryants’ Lane Quarry ROMP Review

Liaison with the mineral operator and his design consultants, on behalf of Central Bedfordshire Council, to review the proposals for further extraction of specialist silica sand and final restoration of the quarry, as part of the ROMP (Review of Old Mineral Permissions) process.

First Review of the Regional Technical Statements for future aggregates provision in Wales

(Download Main Report) (Download Appendix A – North Wales) (Download Appendix B – South Wales)

Cuesta was appointed by the Welsh Government in January 2013 to undertake the First Review and revision of the existing Regional Technical Statement (RTS) on behalf of the North Wales and South Wales Regional Aggregate Working Parties (RAWPs).  The RTS and its two Regional appendices are the documents which, in the Welsh minerals planning system, identify the expected regional and sub-regional apportionment of future aggregates provision, taking account of existing landbanks, the proximity principle and the notion of environmental capacity.  Following public consultation, the final documents were formally endorsed by the elected Members of all Mineral Planning Authorities in Wales, and by the Welsh Government itself, and were published in August 2014.  English language versions of the main document and Regional appendices can be accessed via the links shown above.  Welsh language versions are available via the corresponding RAWP Websites.

West Sussex Wharves and Railheads Safeguarding Study

Cuesta worked with Land Use Consultants to advise West Sussex County Council on the capacity requirements for safeguarding aggregate wharves and railheads to inform the emerging Minerals Local Plan and the Shoreham Harbour Joint Area Action Plan.  Cuesta’s work involved reviewing historical production, import and export trends for crushed rock, land-based sand & gravel and marine-dredged aggregates, and using this data to assess future aggregates demand within the county.

Preferred Area for Limestone Extraction at Trefil, Blaenau Gwent

Evidence was provided, on behalf of Gryphonn Quarries Limited, to support the inclusion of a Preferred Area for future mineral extraction adjacent to the existing Trefil Quarry in Blaenau Gwent. Evidence presented at the Examination of the Local Development Plan convinced the Inspector to allow the inclusion of the Preferred Area, despite objections from the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), regarding the designation of a proposed new geological SSSI which overlaps the site.  The site, which lies close to the boundary of the Brecon Beacons National Park, falls within an area of abundant ‘interstratal karst’ dolines – collapse features within an outcrop of Millstone Grit resulting from dissolution of the underlying Carboniferous Limestone.  The site also forms part of the only location within Blaenau Gwent which the Local Authority can allocate for future limestone extraction, in accordance with the requirements of the South Wales Regional Technical Statement (RTS). Subsequent to the LDP Hearing, in November 2012, representations were made to CCW regarding opportunities to reconcile the need for both mineral extraction and geoconservation within the area.


Assessing the Impacts of Aggregate Extraction on the Historic Environment of Cumbria

Sub-consultant to Oxford Archaeology North, providing geological input to this 18-month project funded by English Heritage, which aims to inform and facilitate the improved curation of the archaeological resource in areas likely to be affected by future mineral extraction.  Cuesta’s input involves identifying the aggregate resources most likely to be worked within Cumbria in the short to medium-term future, in order to prioritise the areas for archaeological assessment.  The work covers areas of glacio-fluvial sand & gravel resources and potential extensions to hard rock quarries within Carboniferous Limestone, Silurian gritstones and rocks of the Ordovician Borrowdale Volcanics Group.

Mountsorrel Quarry Extension

Cuesta provided input on the need for further permitted reserves at this major granite quarry in Leicestershire, in preparation for the recent (January 2014) application to extend and deepen the quarry.  Mountsorrel is one of the largest and deepest crushed rock aggregate quarries in England, and is of strategic importance in supplying high quality concreting aggregate by rail into Eastern England, London and elsewhere. It also supplies rail ballast to Network Rail and a much wider range of construction products by road to closer destinations. Cuesta’s input included analysis of sales data and market destinations (particularly rail output), and comparison with alternatives.  It also included contributing to a series of public open days held at the quarry, explaining to local communities the details of (and need for) the proposed extension.

Managing Landscape Change, North Yorkshire

Cuesta supported Capita Symonds in delivering this innovative project for North Yorkshire County Council, funded by English Heritage.  The project sought to provide an evidence base on the sensitivities to landscape change likely to be associated with future quarrying activity.  The work covered all types of surface mineral extraction, from sand & gravel and crushed rock aggregates to building stone, brick clay, silica sand, Chalk and shallow coal.  For each mineral type (subdivided by depositional environment in the case of sand & gravel), the study examined the relationships between resource distribution, geomorphology, landscape character, biodiversity, geodiversity, archaeology and historic landscape evolution.  The work also examined the potential impacts associated with each type of mineral working and the corresponding landscape, biodiversity and historic environment sensitivities in each of the resource areas.  The findings, completed in April 2012, will directly inform the development of policies within North Yorkshire County Council’s emerging Minerals Core Strategy.

Biodiversity and Geodiversity: A Guide for Mineral Operators

(View / Download report)

This 14-page guide, produced by Cuesta for the Minerals Industry Research Organisation (MIRO) and updated to March 2012, provides a concise and straightforward explanation of the legislation, policy requirements and good practice guidance available to mineral operators in dealing with biodiversity and geodiversity issues at each stage of quarry development. It identifies the key requirements, from pre-operational planning and design, to operational and post-operational stages of development, emphasising both the need for, and benefits of, protecting and enhancing these aspects of the natural environment. Comprehensive references are given to other sources of more detailed information and guidance.

Research on Glacier Responses to Climate Change in Iceland

Building on earlier published research (Thompson, 1988; Thompson & Jones, 1986), Cuesta is undertaking further analysis of changes in the ice front positions of two glaciers in Iceland (Svínafellsjökull and Skaftafellsjökull), based on historical maps and aerial photography, modern satellite imagary, field observations and both tephrochronological and lichenometric dating of older moraines. The research has revealed a dramatic but contrasting response to recent global warming, involving rapid recession of the ice front at Skaftafellsjökull and downwasting of the ice front at Svínafellsjökull, behind the high terminal moraine complex.  The observations add to those previously reported by Thompson (1988) concerning the contrasting evolution of glacial and glacio-fluvial landforms in front of these two glaciers.  They also help to illustrate the nature of associated sand & gravel deposition in contemporary glacial environments.


Thompson, A. 1988: Historical Development of Proglacial Landforms at Svínafellsjökull and Skaftafellsjökull, Southeast Iceland.
Jokull, 38, pp. 1-15.

Thompson, A. & Jones, A. 1986: Rates and Causes of Proglacial River Terrace Formation in Southeast Iceland: An application of lichenometric dating techniques.
Boreas, 15, pp. 231-246.

In addition to the research, and in conjunction with the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, Cuesta has produced a comprehensive guide to a much wider range of geological and geomorphological features, throughout Iceland, that were visited during the 31st Anniversary Liverpool ‘ICEX’ tour, in July/August 2010.  The features described range from classic central-volcanoes, shield volcanoes, volcanic fissures, rift zones, hot springs, lava flows and subglacially-produced table mountains to ice caps, outlet glaciers, proglacial landforms and spectacular waterfalls. The guide also includes a brief account of the research on glacier recession outlined above. A low resolution version of the guide is available to download in seven sections, each less than 3Mb in size:

(Iceland Guide SECTION 1); (Iceland Guide SECTION 2); (Iceland Guide SECTION 3); (Iceland Guide SECTION 4); (Iceland Guide SECTION 5); (Iceland Guide SECTION 6); and (Iceland Guide SECTION 7).





An Ecosystems Approach to Long Term Minerals Planning in the Mendip Hills - Phase II

Cuesta provided the technical direction and leading input to this major project, managed by Capita Symonds and supported by David Jarvis Associates. The work built on Cuesta’s earlier feasibility study, carried out for Somerset County Council and Natural England (see below). The Phase II study demonstrated how the Ecosystems Approach could be used to develop a more holistic, long-term strategy for future quarrying in the Mendips, through innovative excavation concepts and restoration designs which help to optimise the delivery of both essential minerals and other ecosystem services. Conventional and alternative designs were developed for each of 11 major hard rock quarries and for a hypothetical new quarry within the Mendips. The project also illustrated how the Ecosystems Approach can be used as a basis for the comparative assessment of alternative strategies, policies or individual development proposals. Both the main report and individual quarry designs and assessments can be accessed using the above link to MIRO’s Sustainable Aggregates website.

Torr Quarry Environmental Statement

(View / Download report)

Cuesta provided a detailed assessment of the need for continued mineral extraction at this major hard rock quarry in the eastern Mendips, together with an assessment of alternatives. The work was carried out for Aggregate Industries as part of the Environmental Assessment of their 2010 planning application to deepen the existing quarry to just above sea level. Torr Quarry is one of the largest limestone quarries in the UK and is of strategic importance in supplying essential construction aggregates by rail into London and the South East, as well as by road to closer destinations in the South West.

Reach Lane Silica Sand Quarry

Cuesta was appointed by Central Bedfordshire Council to provide independent advice relating to the adequacy of information submitted by LB Silica Sands in support of their application for further mineral extraction at Reach Lane Quarry. Consideration was given to the extent to which the original information demonstrated that the additional sands to be extracted would meet the specification requirements for various grades of specialist sand, in accordance with the applicant’s ‘need’ argument. Following additional sampling and testing by the applicant, suitable information was supplied.

An Ecosystems Approach to Long Term Minerals Planning in the Mendip Hills: Phase I (initial feasibility study)

(View / Download report)

This project was carried out by Cuesta, with assistance from Capita Symonds, for Somerset County Council and Natural England. It examined the feasibility of using Defra’s Ecosystems Approach to develop an innovative, strategic framework for planning the long term future of sustainable aggregate extraction and restoration in the Mendip Hills – one of the most strategically important sources of construction aggregate in England. Historically, minerals planning policies have sought to minimise environmental impacts at individual quarries, hiding them from view, as far as possible. The concept examined here is that, by taking a more holistic and longer-term view, this piecemeal approach could be replaced by a more far-sighted scheme with larger-scale restoration options that are designed, from the outset, to make more positive contributions to the landscape, environment and economic well-being of the area. The work demonstrated that such an approach would be technically feasible and would be regarded favourably by a wide range of stakeholders. It thus provided a starting point for the more detailed Phase II project (described above).

Mineral Allocations and Safeguarding of Aggregate Resources in South East Wales

(View / Download Report)

Cuesta was engaged by a group of four Mineral Planning Authorities within the ‘former Gwent’ area of South East Wales, to assist with the identification of Mineral Safeguarding Areas for inclusion in their Local Development Plans. The work focused primarily on potential resources of Carboniferous Limestone, Carboniferous ‘Pennant’ Sandstones, and Quaternary sand & gravel deposits. It also included an assessment of the feasibility of making allocations for future supply in accordance with the 2008 Regional Technical Statement for South Wales.

Bedfordshire Silica Sand Study

(View / Download Report)

This study for Bedfordshire County Council was carried out as a follow-up to Cuesta’s earlier work on sand & gravel reserves in the area. The new study focused on the future extraction of silica sand from the Cretaceous Woburn Sand Formation and sought to establish the need (or otherwise) for new sites to be included within the Site Allocations Plan, taking account of other permitted reserves within the County in the same geological formation.The work entailed a detailed examination of the geological characteristics of the sediments at existing and proposed quarries, noting variations in colour, grain size and other physical properties, and their relationship to different end-use specifications for both specialist sands and construction uses.

Tir-Pentwys Minerals Planning Application

Cuesta was appointed by Torfaen Borough Council to provide technical advice in relation to the determination of a planning application to extract high specification (skid resistant) aggregates from the spoil tip of a former opencast coal mining operation.The work focused on assessing the quality of the material (Pennant Sandstone) in relation to the need argument put forward by the applicant. Particular attention was given to the proportion of reclaimed material likely to meet the exacting requirements for skid-resistant road surfacing aggregate (on which the need for extraction was predicated), compared to the volumes of lower grade fill and unsaleable fines. The ratio was of concern to the planning authority since it would affect the commercial viability of the operation and the duration of the permission. Advice was also given on the eligibility of the proposal for exemption from the Aggregates Levy.

Blyth Estuary Strategy

(View / Download Report)

Cuesta was appointed by the Blyth Estuary Group (representing several local councils on the Suffolk coast) to provide specialist technical advice in support of their challenge to the Environment Agency’s proposed strategy for managed realignment of coastal defences along the Blyth Estuary.The work involved critically examining some of the fundamental assumptions regarding rates of estuary sedimentation that had been used by the Agency’s consultants in a hydrodynamic model which underpins the preferred option.Working closely with the local community, evidence was gathered relating to historical and contemporary elevations of active mudflats and saltmarsh.This was combined with the analysis of core samples and geomorphological evidence of sedimentation, and a detailed position paper was submitted to and discussed with the Environment Agency.

Bedfordshire Aggregates Landbank Study

(View / Download Report)

Cuesta was engaged by the Bedfordshire County Council’s minerals and waste planning department to carry out a detailed assessment of the current availability of concreting aggregate, building sand and silica sand reserves within the County and to advise on the necessity and practicality of maintaining separate landbanks for each mineral type.The work entailed site visits to the majority of sand pits in Bedfordshire, in order to build up the ‘robust and credible evidence base’ needed to underpin policies within the new Minerals and Waste Development Framework.Particular attention was given to the extent to which some parts of the Cretaceous Woburn Sand Formation should be classified as construction aggregate within landbank calculations, rather than as specialist silica sand, and the extent to which any of that material might be capable of substituting for ‘sharp’ concreting sands, more commonly derived from Quaternary river terrace deposits.

ALSF Science Co-ordinator

(View / Download Report)

Cuesta’s Director – Alan Thompson – was appointed by Defra to co-ordinate all environmental and technical research on land-based aggregates in England funded by the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF), for the period from January 2005 to March 2007.The work involved advising on research requirements and reporting on completed research across all areas of ALSF funding in England, including liaison with eleven separate funding bodies.Topics covered ranged from optimising the efficiency of primary aggregate production and the use of alternative materials, to the avoidance and control of environmental impacts and the creation of environmental improvements through mineral restoration. A report was produced on the achievements of research completed during the first three years of the ALSF and on thematic priorities for future research, as perceived by a wide range of consultees.