Plans to turn South Downs quarry into nature reserve hailed ‘best solution for its future’

Owners of a South Downs sand quarry say they are convinced plans to turn it into a nature reserve are ‘the best solution’ for its future.

Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 3:23 pm

Quarry company Dudman has operated Rock Common Quarry in Washington under lease from landowners The Wiston Estate for the past 10 years.

Now - as the quarry starts to run out of sand - the Wiston Estate says it needs a restoration plan.

But local residents are concerned that the quarry will end up being a landfill site.

Rock Common Quarry in Washington

Initially Wistons had planned to create a lake by filling the empty quarry with deep water - but are now seeking planning approval from West Sussex County Council to fill it with ‘inert material.’

Protesters maintain: “This is not restoration, it is landfill.”

The Wiston Estate outlined its proposals at a public exhibition last week as objectors protested outside.

A spokesman said: “The estate hopes to restore the quarry to a nature reserve, which will eventually be open to the public.

“The public exhibition was a great opportunity for the estate to engage with the Washington community, and share the positive future developments for the quarry.

“For decades Rock Common has been quarried to provide building sand for local homes and, as the sand is running out, now the area needs a restoration plan.

“Wiston Estate’s proposal for the site is to create three shallow lakes which will be rich habitats for wildlife, and to open up footpaths through the area.”

Previously the estate had planned to create a deep lake but it now says that this “would not create habitat conditions allowing nature to thrive, and due to safety concerns would mean the site would remain indefinitely closed to the public.

“The new plan will involve around 10 years’ work to return the area to a safe and sustainable state.

“The estate understands there is concern about the impact of the works in the short term, but firmly believe this is the best long-term solution for the site and the local community.”

The estate now wants to set up a liaison group with residents and the parish council. It says: “This will ensure clear communication channels throughout the restoration process and the future of Rock Common.”

However opposition remains from the Chanctonbury Landfill Action Group. A spokesman said:“The proposal to fill {the quarry} with inert material to approximately a third of the volume, then form some lakes with lodges is ludicrous.”

They fear that, if planning approval is granted, the quarry will be filled with rubble “which will take 50 years plus to fill.

“We will be lucky to see a duck pond on the top.”