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Veolia: Smalley Hill Closed Landfill – Encouraging biodiversity

Turning legacy landfill into a nature reserve, creating space for nature and biodiversity

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  • What we know
  • What we’re doing
  • What it’s worth

What we know

UK landfill disposal of waste was common throughout the 20th century. But things have changed.

Recycling and recovery have become key focuses for the waste management industry as part of our ambition to drive a circular economy. This means that the number of landfill sites is reducing and the land and legacy left behind need to be considered. 

Turning our attention to what we can do with legacy landfills, we have taken on the challenge to find solutions to maximise the environmental benefits from these sites, which offer limited opportunity for use during restoration, and require ongoing monitoring under Environmental Permits.

Legacy sites have plentiful biodiversity potential. As extensive areas protected from development, they can be actively used to promote and increase biodiversity. 

Smalley Hill – a landfill site that Veolia operated from the 1980s in a rural part of Shropshire –  had planned restoration works. But we wanted to take things further to enhance biodiversity there. 

What we’re doing

Restoration works were completed on the site in 1990.

We ensured that during restoration land was revegetated with native species that were in-keeping with the local area, so that once restored the public may never know that it had once been a landfill site. To go further and make the site a biodiversity hub required specialist knowledge. So, we partnered with the Shropshire Wildlife Trust to maximise the environmental benefits of the land. 

Veolia Environmental Trust provided a £38,804 grant to the Wildlife Trust, enabling the site to be turned into a publicly accessible nature reserve. In 2015, a 15-year lease was granted enabling access, maintenance and future viability. 

So, work began. Bird boxes and new habitat measures were introduced. Ponds and wetlands were created and protected. The site was developed with a new legacy for biodiversity to thrive.

illustration of three birds in navy

What it’s worth

The site has become a place for nature and the local community. Thanks to a full access route, including disabled access, and information boards around the site, it’s a place to get close to nature and for education.

The main objective of this project was to maximise the biodiversity on a previous waste site, using expertise and local partnerships to bring both environmental and social benefits to the local area.

And it’s been a success. Protected bird species such as kestrels and owls have been recorded as making the reserve their home. The ponds and wetland areas have become home to a number of protected species such as great crested newts and provide vital habitats for wading birds such as snipes and curlew. And surveys identified field voles and other mammals making the site their home.


Improving biodiversity is critical to mitigating the impacts of climate change. I am proud of what we have achieved on this project, working with our local partners and experts to provide tailored solutions that deliver real biodiversity benefits for the natural environment and support the health and wellbeing of local communities. We remain committed to working collaboratively with our partners and driving innovative solutions that support a nature positive future.

Phil Farrow Environmental Management Lead, Veolia