Quarry deal to protect natural habitat while triggering more growth for waste group

November 4, 2019

Civil engineering, plant, transport and waste group MJ Church has completed the acquisition of an historic quarry in a deal handled by Bath-headquartered law firm Royds Withy King.

Ownership of Wick Quarry in South Gloucestershire will enable Marshfield-headquartered MJ Church to take on a large conservation area that includes a nature reserve and wetlands providing a valuable habitat for locally rare and threatened plant and animal life. 

The nature reserve at the quarry, pictured, which MJ Church has operated for three years under licence, is managed by South Gloucester Council.

The deal means the firm can put into place its growth plans with greater certainty on the availability of tipping facilities and the ability to meet the demand for high-quality aggregates across the region.

Wick Quarry in the Wick Golden Valley between Bristol and Bath has a rich industrial history – from 1892 it was the site of the Wick Golden Valley Ochre and Oxide Works, with ochre extracted from shallow pits and mines in the surrounding area.

Wick Ochre was used to colour The Mall outside Buckingham Palace and exported around the world for use as a pigment in pottery, paper, paints and other products.

The quarry closed after ochre supplies became depleted in the 1970s and in 2001 the rehabilitation of the site into a nature reserve started. Peregrine falcons have returned to rear their young and many species of plants have been re-established.

However, it has also attracted some anti-social behaviour. To solve this planning approval has been secured to substantially change the landscape by reducing cliff faces and the sides of the lakes to gentler slopes and making the entire area a much safer environment. To achieve this 3.8m cubic metres of material is required, which will allow MJ Church to expand its waste management business.

Group managing director Ben Staff said: “Efficient waste management is intrinsic to what we do, from providing a skip and waste collection service to domestic customers through to the management of difficult waste streams for major infrastructure and construction projects.

“We take great pride in the fact that we divert almost all of the waste we process from landfill and strive to find new and alternative means of recycling, reusing and reducing waste.  

“Much of our waste is now sent to ‘waste-to-energy’ facilities across the South West.  The acquisition of Wick Quarry is part of our ambitious plans around diverting waste from landfill whilst conferring environmental benefit.”

The Royds Withy King team was led by corporate partner Katharine Mortimer with support from planning consultant Tracey Merrett, corporate partner James Worrall, senior associate Aman Hart, solicitor Janetta Barrett, dispute resolution partner Philip Banks-Welsh and real estate associate Andrew Johnson.

Katharine said: “MJ Church is a long-standing client and one of the region’s real success stories. We are delighted to have been able to play a role in this acquisition that will enable the business to continue to grow, and to be part of its ongoing success.”

Ben Staff praised Katharine and her team for offering pragmatic advice throughout the deal.

“Despite complexities surrounding environmental matters and land ownership, the completion date was met in line with our programme,” he said.

Regional accountancy firm Bishop Fleming advised on the tax and corporate finance due diligence for MJ Church, with teams led by Stephen Martin, tax director in its Bath office and Bristol-based David Abbott and Joe Coghlan.

Stephen said: “We are delighted to have helped the company complete a deal which forms part of their growth and waste efficiency plans.”


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