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Irish Concrete Federation calls for National Aggregates Policy

Irish Concrete Federation

ICF says forward planning essential to ensure continued supply of key construction materials

IRELAND will need to produce an estimated 1.5 billion tonnes of aggregates to meet housing and infrastructure targets set down under the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 plan, according to the Irish Concrete Federation (ICF) at the launch of a major new publication.

‘Essential Aggregates: Providing for Ireland’s needs to 2040’ is an industry-led call for the Government to ensure that Ireland’s future supply of crushed rock and sand and gravel aggregates is planned, monitored and managed in a sustainable manner, to provide for Ireland’s future infrastructure development.

The report identifies that demand for aggregates in Ireland, at 12 tonnes per capita, is twice the current EU 28-country average, due to Ireland’s infrastructural deficit, dispersed pattern of settlement and resulting large road network.

The Federation warns that scarcities of some aggregates are now emerging in the Eastern and Midland regions, due to natural shortages, a lack of forward planning, and delays and other shortcomings in the planning process. 

Speaking today [23 October] at the launch event at the Royal College of Physicians, in Dublin, Gerry Farrell, chief executive officer of the Irish Concrete Federation, said strong political leadership is called for to bring forward the first ever National Aggregates Policy as a proper response to the future infrastructure needs and demographic change under way across the country.

‘Ireland has abundant natural reserves of high-quality aggregates, but their future accessibility must be planned for and protected by the Government, he said.

‘A lack of future planning and priority in the planning process and delays in achieving prospective quarry planning permissions will result in future shortages in the supply of some types of construction aggregates in certain areas of the country. The future supply of aggregates needs to be prioritized and addressed in a planned manner if we are to reach the ambitious construction targets as laid out in Project Ireland 2040.’

He continued: ‘We’re grateful that Minister Seán Canney recognizes the strategic importance of having access to a steady and dependable supply of local, high-quality raw materials that are necessary for the delivery of Ireland’s future built environment.

‘We look forward to working with the Government to deliver a sustainable framework that promotes the identification, protection and extraction of aggregates in a sustainable manner, supportive of environmental protection and the circular economy.’

The ICF is calling for the development of a National Aggregates Planning Policy which would be reflected in local and regional planning policy and which would improve planning processes, including a provision to provide a direct route to An Bord Pleanála to fast-track critically important quarry planning applications.

ICF stated that the current average decision-making time frame for quarry planning applications is 76 weeks, with some decisions taking in excess of two years, as practically all decisions are appealed to An Bord Pleanála.

The Federation also calls for longer durations of planning authorizations for extractive developments, certainty of planning enforcement, and firm and consistent public procurement policy to ensure supply to the marketplace only comes from authorized operations.

Koen Verbruggen, director of the Geological Survey of Ireland, commented: ‘The Geological Survey of Ireland is pleased to welcome this publication on planning policy for the aggregates industry.

‘Raw material potential has recently been explicitly recognized within the 2019 Climate Action Plan as a key potential rural employer, whilst local sources of aggregates are vital in the drive to reduce our carbon footprint and to transition towards a more sustainable society.

‘It is extremely important that policymakers understand the current realities of aggregate production and that any deficiencies in the current planning system are addressed appropriately.’

The Minister of State for Natural Resources, Community Affairs and Digital Development, Sean Canney TD, said: ‘The Government is focused on achieving the objectives set down in Project Ireland 2040 and, as you saw in Budget 2020, we are committing the necessary funds to ensure public infrastructure projects are delivered that guarantee a good quality of life of all our citizens.

‘I’m acutely aware of the key role that aggregate materials will play in the delivery of Project Ireland 2040 and we are working with all stakeholders to ensure that the planning system needs to be reformed and streamlined to allow for this.

‘I applaud the Irish Concrete Federation for their leadership in the delivery of this report and I look forward to working with them to advance a National Aggregates Policy.’

A copy of the Irish Concrete Federation’s ‘Essential Aggregates: Providing for Ireland’s needs to 2040’ report, can be downloaded below.

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