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At a ceremony held at the Royal Society in London on 14 October hosted by BBC Country File’s Helen Skelton, Smiths picked up a top award for the quality of its work on biodiversity and nature conservation at its Gill Mill Quarry in the Windrush Valley. 

As a reminder, this is now the third national award that Smiths have been awarded, following on from the Rushy Common and Ardley North Quarry awards. Impressive facts for the local family-owned Oxfordshire business quarry company especially when you consider that Smiths are competing with the largest companies in its industry, 

The Mineral Products Association (MPA) Biodiversity Awards are judged in association with Natural England and the RSPB and the company was the overall winner of the “Planned” category for its new quarry extension to Gill Mill Quarry. 

The restoration plan creates 120 hectares of priority habitats including one of the largest reedbeds in southern England. It will also include extensive new public access and a number of eco-lodges to benefit the local economy and provide revenue for sustainable management of the resulting nature reserve. 

The judges were particularly impressed by the scale and ambition of the project, and that the design reflects the views of conservation bodies, the local community, the local authority and the Ministry of Defence. The site lies under the flightpath of RAF Brize Norton and the extensive reedbed will help to reduce the risk of birdstrike for aircraft while providing habitat for rare species including bittern, water vole and otter. The scheme also reflects the need to conserve existing habitats of biodiversity and cultural value, and make a landscape-scale contribution to the wider Windrush Valley strategy through the Lower Windrush Valley Project whilst also helping flood management downstream of Witney. 

Once complete, the restoration at Gill Mill will deliver one of the largest connected priority wildlife habitats in Southern England. 

Martin Layer said; “I am delighted for the company that the work we have carried out in consultation and partnership with so many local organisations over the past 5 years has been recognised by this prestigious national award. We will now continue our work with the RSPB, the local authorities and our neighbouring communities to further enrich the biodiversity value of this part of West Oxfordshire.” 

Many congratulations to all those people involved. 
Please follow the link to see the event highlights. 
f you wish to see the Gill Mill video showing full details of the future of the Gill Mill quarry please click here.

In conjunction with this award, Smiths would like to announce that they have become Gold corporate members of the RSPB. The RSPB has been very influential in the decisions regarding the bird life and their habitats for the restored and the restoring of our quarries. No more so than the Gill Mill restoration where the partnership will now continue as the scheme that has been planned on paper has now got to be delivered on the ground. The expertise of the RSPB will be essential in helping Smiths people at Gill Mill progressively build one of the largest reed beds in southern England on the back of sand and gravel extraction.