Declining aggregate reserves still causing concern
Aggregate reserves continue to be consumed quicker than new quarrying capacity is being permitted, the quarrying industry warns.
The growing gap and impending building materials crisis are highlighted in the fourth Annual Mineral Planning Survey (AMPS4), produced by the Mineral Products Association. This covers the period to the end of 2014 and is based on data for the whole of Great Britain provided in confidence by MPA members.
Although the demand for aggregates continues to recover, this latest report once again highlights the problems of declining reserves that were raised in previous surveys. The MPA warns that unless local authorities update and extend coverage of their mineral plans and speed up the planning process, the construction industry is heading for increasing supply challenges, particularly with local sand and gravel.
The AMPS4 report shows that reserves are being used twice as fast as new capacity is being permitted. Crushed rock is superficially being replenished but this is skewed by a few large permissions which mask general under-replenishment elsewhere.
Total MPA sales of land-won sand and gravel and crushed rock in GB increased by 6.1% and 13.5% respectively in 2014, reflecting growth in overall construction and economic activity.
However, minerals producers have been slow to respond to the upturn and it still takes almost three years on average to secure permission to extract sand and gravel or crushed rock.
MPA chief executive Nigel Jackson said: “It is good news that there is a continuing increase in the demand for aggregates and a growth in construction and economic activity during 2014. The report highlights the fact that insufficient new reserves are being permitted particularly sand and gravel and this continues to be a real concern. With over half of new permissions being for sites that have not yet been allocated in mineral plans, it is clear that the plan led system is not providing the certainty that it should.”
He added: “I hope that both government and planning authorities will take notice of the messages from AMPS4 and give more commitment to speeding up both the plan making system and the processing of planning applications, otherwise maintaining a ‘steady and adequate supply’ will become increasingly difficult over the longer term. Investing in the skills required by planning authorities to handle aggregates and quarrying issues is vital. We think that better use could be made of the talent that is already in place by sharing specialist officers between authorities to create ‘centres of mineral planning excellence’. We also believe that urgent attention needs to be given to improving the interface between planning and the key permitting functions of the Environment Agency and Natural England, which should be far more integrated. Last but not least, the primacy of planning over permitting must be re-established if we are to tackle this replenishment issue by giving operators the confidence they need to submit more applications.”
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This article was published on 12 Feb 2016 (last updated on 12 Feb 2016).