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Aggregate supply alert

MATERIALS - Lafarge boss says UK faces a 200 million shortfall in aggregates per year due to slow planning procedures

MATERIALS giant Lafarge has called for a public debate on the future supply of aggregates after it dropped its long running battle to quarry a Scottish mountain.

Nigel Jackson, Lafarge Aggregates executive director, claimed that the UK could be faced with a 200 milliontonne shortfall in aggregate volumes each year unless urgent steps are taken to speed up the planning process.

He said: 'If demand continues at its current rate the UK's capacity to supply will begin to fall off after 10 years.'

According to Mr Jackson, current demand for aggregates stands at 260 million tonnes per annum, a total set to continue for the next 15 years. Of this total just 60 million tonnes is recycled material.

And with the recycled aggregate sector running in the region of 90 per cent capacity, this total is unlikely to change.

That leaves 200 million tonnes of material that has to be quarried from primary sources.

With very few new quarries getting the green light from planning authorities, Mr Jackson called for a move to speed up the planning system. He said: 'Processes need to be put in place now that will speed up the system. At present it is terribly fragmented and as a result is murderously difficult to get a decision one way or another.'

Other quarriers agreed with Mr Jackson and claimed Lafarge's bid to quarry Mount Roineabhal had highlighted the need for speedier decisions.

Lafarge Aggregates conceded defeat in its attempts to develop a £70 million stone aggregate quarry in the Outer Hebrides after a courtroom saga lasting over a decade. Bosses from the French giant travelled to Scotland last week to announce that it had written off plans to rip out as much as 550 million tonnes of stone from the island's Mount Roineabhal.

Duncan McLaren, chief executive of environmental group Friends of the Earth Scotland, hailed the decision as ethical.

He said: 'This is a great decision for the people and environment of Harris. Lafarge's decision is without doubt the only responsible and ethical decision that could have been taken.'