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MPA voices concern over future aggregate supply

Nigel Jackson

Mineral Products Association warns mineral planning system could threaten future supplies for construction 

NIGEL Jackson, chief executive of the MPA, has written to the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, asserting the need to continue cutting red tape in the extraction industry, support mineral planning and protect the Managed Aggregate Supply System (MASS).

According to the Association, these key inter-related issues potentially affect the quarrying industry’s ability to ensure that the construction sector can continue to be supplied with one million tonnes a day of essential mineral products. If the Government takes no action, it will undermine any attempts to fix a ‘broken’ housing market and supply significant infrastructure projects that are planned over the next five to 10 years.


First, the Cutting Red Tape review of mineral extraction – which the Government introduced in acknowledgement of the cumulative impacts of environmental and other regulation, and a drive to secure £10 billion of reduced costs for business – has stalled. It is imperative that momentum is regained and that the Government continues to support the industry. The MPA believes forming a joint government/industry strategic group would provide detailed due diligence on developing more.

Secondly, the Association says the provision of 3.8 billion tonnes of material required to underpin the anticipated needs of the construction sector to 2030 needs active management, to ensure the right resources are made available when required. 

It says inter-regional flows deliver a steady supply of mineral resources around the country, but localism has weakened their operation and delivery, and devolution has added further complications given that material movements cross national boundaries. Rail depots and marine wharves are critical to regional flows and require safeguarding as the need for housing progressively encroaches upon them. 

MPA is supportive of the National Planning Policy Framework, yet stewardship of mineral planning by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has withered since 2015. The Association warns expert mineral planning resources must be in place, particularly as constraints on future supply are emerging and are likely to increase. 

Thirdly, Local Aggregate Assessments (LAAs), which Aggregate Working Parties (AWPs) depend on in order to make plans, are based on historical levels of activity. LAA methodology is set out in DCLG guidance but, in the absence of updated National Guidelines to provide an objective statement of future demand for construction materials, the approach is ‘backward looking’ – as mineral planning authorities and AWPs are not equipped to properly consider future demand and coordinate supply between areas.

This, says the MPA, is creating inconsistencies and, in turn, tensions between mineral planning authorities and AWPs.

Furthermore, AWP funding is uncertain. The Association warns this, coupled with the loss of capacity in the Minerals and Waste Division at DCLG, means that MASS is seriously at risk. Mr Jackson added that this feels perverse given recent proposals in the Housing White Paper, which embraces a sound evidence base to support the timely and effective delivery of local planning processes.

He commented: ‘All recent governments have failed to make the link between their ambitions for building more houses and renewing and extending our national infrastructure and the essential mineral products upon which the construction industry relies. 

‘Current fascination with off-site manufacturing and an apparent bias towards timber construction are distractions, and we must not ignore the need for one million tonnes per day of aggregates, concrete and asphalt which form the vast majority of the construction supply chain. Ensuring adequate supplies of aggregates around the country relies upon an efficient mineral planning system which encourages companies to submit planning applications for more aggregate reserves.’ 

Mr Jackson continued: ‘Over recent years the system has been withering with vital staff and resources in both local and central governments being cut, not replaced or diverted. Eventually, we will pay a price and the system that has operated reasonably well since the mid-1970s will fail to deliver the mineral products we need at the right levels to feed the construction industry. The Government needs to wake up and ‘make the link’ while there is still time to act.’


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