Written evidence submitted by the Mineral Products Association (LRS0067)
- The Mineral Products Association (MPA) is the trade association for the aggregates, asphalt, cement, concrete, dimension stone, lime, mortar and silica sand industries. With the affiliation of British Precast, the British Association of Reinforcement (BAR), Eurobitume UK, MPA Northern Ireland, MPA Scotland and the British Calcium Carbonate Federation, it has a growing membership of 530 companies and is the sectoral voice for mineral products. MPA membership is made up of the vast majority of independent SME quarrying companies throughout the UK, as well as the 9 major international and global companies. It covers 100% of UK cement production, 90% of GB aggregates production, 95% of asphalt and over 70% of ready-mixed concrete and precast concrete production.
- In 2016, the industry supplied £18 billion worth of materials and services to the economy and was the largest supplier to the construction industry, which had annual output valued at £152 billion. Industry production represents the largest materials flow in the UK economy and is also one of the largest manufacturing sectors.
- Minerals are literally foundational to economic growth. Housing, infrastructure, commercial and industrial buildings all rely on the materials our members supply including aggregates, cement, concrete, asphalt, lime, mortar and others. Minerals planning is a specific component of the planning system that is frequently overlooked at all levels of Government.
- Minerals can only be worked where they occur. They are a strategic resource that does not neatly reflect economic or political geography, with some areas producing large quantities and others needing more than they can supply. There is a constant flow of materials throughout the UK and beyond to supply this need.
- MPA surveys show a continuing decline in reserves permitted for extraction of both rock and sand and gravel, with the amount being extracted each year exceeding new reserves being permitted. The long-term average replenishment rate of new permitted tonnage for rock is 75% of that extracted, while for sand and gravel this is 63%.
- The time taken for planning applications for mineral extraction to be determined and issued is around 3 years with a cost of more than £100,000. This deters applications and this is one of the drivers of the low replenishment rate. Combined with reports from our members and our own engagement with mineral planning authorities, there is evidence of the mineral planning system not delivering the necessary site allocations and new permissions to provide sufficient certainty and confidence for investment to enable a steady and adequate supply of minerals.
- The planning and supply of minerals is a strategic issue which localism, almost by definition, does not adequately address. Geology dictates that areas of supply are not always proximate to areas of demand. The long time it takes to identify, secure, obtain permission and make investment to bring minerals sites into production to meet demand also requires a strategic and long-term perspective. Under localism, strategic planning capacity and capability has been eroded, and increased parochialism with regard to provision for minerals is evident.
- The regional planning system, dismantled in 2010, was properly resourced and operated at a scale that enabled strategic consideration of supply and demand to ensure adequate provision for minerals was made at regional and local levels.
- To make today’s structures work better minerals planning authorities should be better resourced and directed to formally collaborate, in effect creating centres of excellence. Only upper-tier counties in the current set of local structures have the willingness or understanding to engage with minerals issues. Their lack of resources has led to greater use of consultancies and therefore a loss of capacity and corporate knowledge.
- Planners and decision makers need to make the link between ambitions on housing and infrastructure and the materials needed to fulfil them, and then to carry this forward into planning policies and decisions that supply those materials.
- Our experience, and that of our members, on stakeholder engagement at various levels is mixed. Stakeholders are routinely engaged by our member companies seeking to develop sites, and also in considering options for their restoration after working. Stakeholder engagement during the planning process inevitably tends to be negative, even where a site is allocated in a plan for development, due to concerns over local impacts of mineral working, which our members seek to minimise and address. While mineral working, which is generally in rural areas, provides skilled employment wider local benefits can be difficult to understand. In the recent Review of the Aggregates Levy, the MPA called for a very small fraction of the c. £400 million per annum revenue that continues to be paid by industry to be allocated to funding of local environmental and community projects and on the mineral planning process, and we look forward to Treasury responding on that point.
Targeted regional investment
- Local and regional infrastructure represent some of the best “shovel-ready” projects, with road maintenance and investments a good way to improve productivity as well as providing immediate employment opportunities. The latest ALARM survey found a total maintenance shortfall of over £11 billion for England and Wales.