Call to protect ‘geodiversity’ of coasts and flood plains

Planners and developers must consider England's geological riches to prevent coastal development and flood defences from destroying landscapes, according to a Government report out on Friday.

Unique rocks, minerals, landforms, fossils and soils should be put at the centre of sustainable development policy, the Government’s conservation agency English Nature said in the Natural Foundations report.

Local geological features should be considered throughout the planning process and on all scales, the report says.

“For example, some developments might allow the creation of more rock exposures, or offer an opportunity to re-establish natural systems; in others, planning permission may insist on mitigation, such as future monitoring and maintenance work.”

Alongside coastal development, quarries, mines and contamination are listed as sources of damage to England’s geological wealth.

English Nature geologist and report co-author Jonathan Larwood said: “This is the first report celebrating the pivotal role that geology plays in our lives and suggesting solutions to some of the challenges we face in the 21st century. It will form the natural foundation for everything we do in the future.”

The report identifies the priorities for the preservation and enhancement of geodiversity and aims to deliver its message to a wide audience of “environmental practitioners and decision makers.”

It comes a month before Natural England – the agency created from the fusion of English Nature, the Rural Development Service and the Countryside Agency’s landscape division – takes over responsibility for geology from English Nature on October 1.

Sir Martin Doughty, Natural England chair, said: “I’m delighted that this excellent document has succeeded in linking geology with biodiversity, soils, natural processes and landscapes, since that’s exactly what Natural England will be all about.

“We’re determined to promote a holistic approach to the environment, in which these linkages are fundamental. This report will be really valuable in helping establish a common starting point for the people that will join us from the three founding Bodies – English Nature, the Countryside Agency, and the Rural Development Service.”

Threats to England’s geodiversity listed in the report include:

* Coastal protection and development that conceals valuable

geological exposures and disrupts the natural processes that helped create them

* Inappropriate development such as building on river flood plains

* Loss of limestone pavements and cave systems to mineral


* Loss of valuable quarry exposures to landfill or industrial


* Neglect of landscape features such as dry-stone walls and vernacular buildings

* Poorly planned tree plantations that can obscure and destroy

rare geological formations like limestone pavements

* Contamination of soils through pollution

The full report can be accessed here.

Goska Romanowicz

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