Longcliffe Quarries

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Longcliffe Quarries is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.


Highlighting best practice
John Shields
Ian Lomas herding sheep over Brassington
Founded in 1927, Longcliffe Quarries is a fifth-generation
family-run limestone quarrying business, based outside
the village of Brassington in the Derbyshire Dales. With
170 employees, they are one of the largest employers in their
constituency. Successive generations of many families have
worked for the company, and it is this community standing
and long-scale time horizon that inform the culture and aims
of the business. For Longcliffe, two things count above all else:
sustainability in their operations and in their community. John
Shields, one of the company’s directors, has more to say.
Sustainability and challenges
Operational sustainability at its simplest means safety, quality and efficiency.
Successfully doing this is no mean feat in a potentially very hazardous environment,
where chemical purity and technical specification count for everything, and where
huge amounts of energy are required to make the final product.
In meeting these challenges, Longcliffe has consistently improved health and safety
culture and reduced lost time to injury. We are also certified to ISO standards 9001,
14001 and 50001 – the first quarrying operation in the country to obtain the
last-named. These actions have real cost and environmental benefits: since 2010,
energy usage per tonne has fallen by 28 per cent, and with the addition of two
wind turbines, our on-site carbon intensity has fallen by half.
To continue this upward trend, however, we need policymakers to be informed
before they regulate. It is unwelcome, for instance, to be told (quoting a recent
»Managing director: Viv Russell,
»Led by the Shields family
»Established in 1927
»Based in Derbyshire Dales,
outside Brassington
»Services: Extraction, processing
and delivery of high-quality
limestone products
»No. of employees: 170
»Their material went into
making the fluoroelastomer
docking seals on the
International Space Station
Longcliffe Quarries
departmental briefing on solar
subsidies) that 2-3 per cent IRR is an
“investment return”; on the contrary,
it’s effectively a loss.
Similarly unwelcome was having
to explain to officials at the then
Department of Energy and Climate
Change that confusing megawatt hours
for megawatts is akin to the Department
of Transport confusing miles for miles
per hour. When developing our wind
and hydro projects, we were equally
unappreciative when feed-in tariffs
changed faster than finances could
be negotiated and facility agreements
drafted, with subsidy cliff edges at
every turn. In business risk terms, it is
almost better to halve a subsidy and
stick to it than to be unpredictable.
A particularly odd governmental
decision in 2001 was applying the
Aggregates Levy to by-products of
industrial limestone powder production
(ironically as part of a measure intended
to encourage use of by-products).
This has forced us to rebury 7 million
tonnes of perfectly usable processed
material in the interim, wasting almost
two Saturn V rockets’ worth of fuel
and five years’ production of material
for no goodreason.
While heavy industries like quarrying
certainly benefit from regulation, such
regulation needs to be competently
implemented. As the largest customer
of the quarrying industry, it is the
government and taxpayer that stand to
benefit most from improvements in the
construction products value chain.
A community focus
The second limb of Longcliffe’s
sustainability is its community focus.
In addition to customer-centricity and
independence, we prize loyalty and
neighbourliness – and in this regard we
are unusual. Furthermore, we’re better
able to express these values than our
multinational competitors because
our local management and ownership
not only has to live with the decisions
they make, but can make them far
Politicians need no reminding that
the loss of mining – and of associated
manufacturing and skills – has been
keenly felt in communities across the
Midlands and North. The landscape in
this sense is a cultural construct as much
as it is a geological one, where lives
and livelihoods have themselves been
woven into the very fabric of the hills
and valleys. This mood was captured
in a wonderful recent exhibition,
– The Story of One Derbyshire Hill
which combined photography, poetry,
sculpture and sketches to tell the story
of a landscape shaped as much by what
lies beneath the soil as what lies above.
Limestone is not just the product of
ancient life: it is central to modern life
too, and is critical to both the local and
national economy. The fine powders
and granules that we produce go
into producing a staggering array of
products: agricultural applications,
concrete and construction products,
steel, glass, ceramics, rubber, plastics,
water purification, and flue gas
desulphurisation, among others.
Longcliffe workers on
a Brassington Moor
quarry dumper: (top)
Jon Murgatroyd, Andre
Needham, (bottom) Kevin
Beach, Martyn Hollinsdale,
Mark Stinson, Colin
Roper, Mark Spencer
Limestone is
critical to both
the local and
Highlighting best practice
Someof our material even ended up
being used for the fluoroelastomer
docking seals on the International
Space Station. Almost as excitingly,
“Hopton Wood Limestone” (as this
type of local stone is called when
cut) has been used extensively in the
Houses ofParliament.
However necessary, quarrying can
be an emotive subject for those – be
they locals or visitors – interested in
the landscape. Such feelings can be
mixed, and, particularly from planners’
point of view, the assumption often is
that quarrying is a uniquely destructive
activity. In reality, nothing could be
further from the truth: not only does
this industry support a vast array of
jobs and supporting industries, it
also creates much-needed habitats
for many species that appreciate the
quarry environment itself or the low-
intensity buffer areas that surround it.
Examples include peregrine falcons,
sand martins and grey partridges,
to name a few. Moreover, once
the quarry’s commercial life is over,
what remains teems with life. At a
nature reserve we turned over to the
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, many priority
species listed in the UK biodiversity
action plan have been found, including
rare orchids and 26species ofbutterfly.
This is not just about feeling good;
doing well by one’s neighbours has
hard benefits. Longcliffe reportedly
developed the only large wind farm
planning permission in the country
not to receive a single objection from
any member of the public or statutory
consultee – something only possible
due to widespread local consultation
and much local goodwill. And we
rely on similar goodwill for the most
important resource of all: minerals
permitted for extraction. It would be
a fantasy to think planners and local
residents will continue supporting
our operations without a long-term
commitment on our part to benefiting
the local community.
The relationship with government
– be it local or national – must be
improved, however. It should not
be a battle to explain to transport
officials the importance of keeping
arterial roads open, nor should it be a
battle to explain that jobs depend on
the availability of the right minerals,
and that these can only be extracted
where they are found. Finally, it
should not be a battle to convince
governments entrusted with the
long-term future of the country to
align themselves with businesses
like Longcliffe, who are looking not
just to the next financial year or next
election, but to the next 30 or even
50 years.
We will only
receive local
support if we
show long-
to benefiting
the local
Tea break: (left to right) Sarah-Jane Owen, Julie Carey, Sarah Williams,
Karen Holmes
Wall butterfly at Longcliffe’s Hoe
Grange Quarry wildlife reserve


This article was sponsored by Longcliffe Quarries. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.