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Continuing pressure on aggregate reserves

AMPS 2017

Latest MPA report highlights continued concerns behind diminished aggregate reserves

THE Mineral Products Association (MPA) has highlighted continued concerns over the pressure on aggregate reserves in its sixth Annual Mineral Planning Survey (AMPS 2017), which covers the period to the end of 2016 and has been produced against the background of a continued increase in demand for aggregates across Great Britain during 2016, with crushed rock continuing to make the largest contribution to supply.

According to the surevey, demand for sand and gravel continues to consistently outstrip new reserves being permitted, with the 10-year average replenishment rate for land-won sand and gravel remaining low at 60%. In the case of crushed rock, while the 10-year average replenishment rate remains above 100%, the new reserves permitted in 2016 were less than the annual sales for the fourth consecutive year. Collectively, this suggests that the long-term reserve base upon which the aggregates industry is dependant remains under pressure.


The AMPS data, which shows the interface between mineral operators and the land-use planning system, is derived from original MPA data together with information from the annual Aggregate Working Party reports. In the last few years, this work has been compiled in the form of the MPA Annual Mineral Planning Survey (AMPS) reports.

The key findings of the survey are:

  • Sales – total sales of land-won sand and gravel and crushed rock in GB by MPA members increased by 2.5% and 5.3%, respectively, in 2016, reflecting continued growth in overall construction and economic activity.
  • Replenishment of sand and gravel reserves – only 20% of sales in 2016 were replenished through new permissions. The rolling 10-year average for replenishment of land-won sand and gravel reserves remains low at 60%, meaning that sales continue to outstrip the amount of new reserves permitted.
  • Replenishment of crushed rock reserves – the equivalent rolling 10-year average for replenishment of crushed rock reserves in 2016 was 117%. However, for the fourth consecutive year, the annual replenishment of new reserves of crushed rock has been less than the annual sales with only 6% replaced during 2016. 2017 is anticipated to see the rolling average reserve replenishment rate fall significantly, as the tonnage for Glensanda drops out of the 10-year average.
  • Numbers of planning applications – there has been a decrease in submissions for sand and gravel in 2016 (13 sites) compared with 2015 (20 sites), and predominantly for extensions at existing sites. The number of crushed rock applications increased to five compared with four in 2015.
  • Numbers of planning decisions – the number of determinations continues to be relatively low with nine approvals and two refusals across both sand and gravel and crushed rock sites compared with the heights of 2008/09 (30+ sites).
  • Time taken to obtain permission – it takes 30 and 31 months, respectively, from submission to permission for both sand and gravel and crushed rock reserves, based on a 10-year average. The data for 2016 suggest that sand and gravel determinations took 14 months less than for applications determined in 2015. The sand and gravel data also show that the time to issue consents post-committee determination has increased, perhaps a partial reflection of decreasing local planning authority resources and increasing complexity and information requirements.
  • Numbers of Core Strategies/Development Plans adopted – the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act required that full plan coverage be in place within three years, ie by 2007. However, at the beginning of September 2017 only 87 out of 118 (73.7%) English local planning authorities had an adopted Core Strategy/Local Plan, with 21 out of 25 (84%) Welsh local authorities having an adopted Local Development Plan.
  • Plan Allocations – Over the past 10 years 48% of new permissions continue to be for sites that have not been allocated in mineral plans. In 2016 the figure was 44%.

Announcing the publication of AMPS 2017, the MPA’s executive director of planning and mineral resources, Mark Russell, said: ‘As with 2015, another year of increased demand for aggregates is clearly good news. However, the quantum of new reserves that are being permitted year-on-year are still insufficient to support the long-term demands that are likely to be placed on these essential construction materials, particularly sand and gravel.

‘MPA analysis of the anticipated demand for construction aggregates to the end of 2030 has highlighted that between 3.2 and 3.8 billion tonnes of sand, gravel and crushed rock will be needed to support the Government’s policy aspirations around economic growth.

‘It can take from five to 15 years for an operator to complete the complex, multi-phase development process that is required to bring a new aggregate extraction site into operation, negotiating the complex combination of commercial, planning and regulatory issues that have to be successfully addressed.

‘Given these lead-in times, our latest AMPS report demonstrates that it is becoming increasingly difficult for industry to ensure that the right minerals are able to be provided in the right place and at the right time to support these long-term goals.’

Commenting on continuing concerns that are apparent from the report, Mr Russell said: ‘Government planning policy requires a ‘steady and adequate supply’ of aggregates to be maintained. However, the profile of mineral planning within government has been steadily declining, which coincides with a 44% reduction in primary aggregate reserves since 2001 and a 20% reduction since 2005, identified in the Government’s own 2014 Aggregates Monitoring survey.

‘Given the ongoing policy ambitions around the delivery of new housing and national infrastructure, it is essential that we find ways to work with government and mineral planners to ensure the Managed Aggregate Supply System (MASS) provides the necessary confidence and certainty the minerals industry requires to make the long-term development and investment commitments needed to ensure replacement primary aggregate reserves are secured for the next decade and beyond.’


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