Cranleigh Brick and Tile Works is situated eight miles from Guildford in Surrey and is a great example of how we can work to give value back to historically deemed, non-functional land.
Image obtained from Google Earth on 29/03/2016
Cranleigh Brick and Tile Works is around 32 hectares and has a multifarious history originating with clay production in the early 20th century. During the First World War the grounds were used as a munitions store, between 1937 and 1989 they were used for chemical manufacturing processes  and between 1990 and 2004 the site reverted to a brickworks which sourced the clay required from the site itself. In 2000, the Environment Agency declared the location as a ‘Special Site’ as a result of the threat of pollution it posed to nearby Controlled Waters .
Why is the risk so high?
The chemical activity which took place was far less regulated than required by today’s standards and as a result the site is highly contaminated with hazardous substances; predominantly zinc, cadmium, asbestos, refractory ceramic fibres, dieldrin (a banned insecticide designed to replace DDT) and other derivatives of DDT . All of which pose significant risk to the environment and to human health. The below photographs show the state in which the Brickworks was left to fall into.
So what will happen to the site?
Of the many planning applications submitted to Waverley District Council, only one has had full success. A company called Rural Arisings were granted permissions of the site in 2015. Rural Arisings specialises in the reuse of waste material , and in this particular project they are taking on clay which has been removed for construction purposes at various sites. The clay is very pure and contains no harmful materials or chemicals ensuring a ‘clean’ layer. This will be used to lay a cap over the entire site of Cranleigh Brick and Tile Works . The clay will be of a substantial depth and will work to encapsulate the contamination and provide an impermeable barrier ensuring no escape of any of the harmful substances left by past industry.
Once the cap is in place, the majority of the site will be transformed into a nature reserve and a smaller area will be used for building 19 houses. The reserve will provide habitats to many species of animals and plants, some of which are currently present and some of which should be present. The UK’s first discovery of breeding Alcathoe’s Bats was made at this site in 2010 and very rare Bechsteins Bats are known to breed nearby .
This project is proof that we can clear up some of the damage that past industries have caused to our land and environment. These abandoned sites needn’t be a scar. And not only that, it can be done in a sustainable manner turning what would have been waste material into the saviours of the day. The outcomes of this project will positively impact not only environmental but social, economic and political aspects of the local area.
It is very exciting that projects like this are going ahead and comforting to know that the detrimental effects our industrial past has had on our land is slowly being erased.
The clean-up begins!
- Former Baynards or Cranleigh Brickworks (no date) Available at: http://wikimapia.org/16952779/Former-Baynards-or-Cranleigh-Brickworks (Accessed: 17 March 2016)
- Rural Arisings Ltd (2015) Cranleigh brick and tile works. Available at: http://www.ruralarisings.co.uk/projects/cranleigh-brick-and-tile-works (Accessed: 17 March 2016).
- Computer, Q. (2016) Rural Arisings. Available at: http://www.ruralarisings.co.uk (Accessed: 15 March 2016).