South-east presses ahead with plans to slash aggregate extraction ahead of national agreement
Fresh materials price hikes are on the horizon because of a regional battle over aggregates extraction, according to suppliers.
Local authorities in the South-east are refusing to renegotiate a 32 per cent target for reducing aggregate extraction set by the now-disbanded South East England Regional Assembly.
The refusal threatens the 30-year-old Managed Aggregates Supply system that gives the UK 248 million tonnes of aggregates annually. There are fears that other regions will follow suit, restricting total output and pushing up prices at a time when contractors already face squeezed margins.
Mineral Products Association acting chief executive officer Nigel Jackson said: “In the South-east [the authorities] are challenging how it is apportioned sub-regionally.
“There is an undercurrent of nimbyism and parochialism here that is beginning to destabilise what has been a national agreement for aggregates provision.”
Jackson said the MAS relied on a collective approach and “mutual responsibility”. The system sets regional targets via a Government survey every four years.
British Aggregates Association secretary Peter Huxtable said many assemblies wanted to reduce their quotas.
“They are ignoring central government, while several of the National Parks are wanting to reduce quarrying. We are saying we have a system of centralised aggregates management, and this is to minimise the distance that materials travel.”
Director of South-east mining firm Summerleaze Mike Lowe warned that other regions would balk at having to increase supply to make up the South-east shortfall. Prices were likely to rise, he said.
“DCLG set what it considered a reasonable and acceptable amount but SEERA has decided that it can’t accept that. With the Olympics and the work going on in the South-east coming up there could be a real problem.”
Former chairman of the South-east regional planning committee Moira Gibson defended the new target.
“Historically, production of aggregates has consistently been well below guideline requirements, even at times with high house building rates,” she said.
“The Regional Assembly therefore resolved that the target for the South-east should reflect more accurately past sales, demand and the deliverability of supply. This means recommending a new target of 9.01 million tonnes a year.”
Meanwhile, a large swathe of land from Winchester to Eastbourne was last month designated as the South Downs National Park.
Country Land and Business Association president Henry Aubrey-Fletcher said: “We have observed in other National Parks that draconian planning and regulation has stifled rural enterprise ultimately at the expense of people who derive their living from the land, which is deeply worrying.”