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Govt report doubts quarry tax's impact

MATERIALS Aggies body increases pressure to ditch tax after claims it has 'no direct'benefit

AGGREGATE producers have cranked up the pressure on the Government to withdraw tax on newly quarried stone.

Industry body the Quarry Products Association claimed that the £1.60 per tonne Aggregates Levy, introduced in April 2002, should be axed after a Government document admitted the tax had no direct environmental benefit.

A comment in the Department of Transport: Sustainable Distribution Report on the aggregates levy sustainability fund, which uses income generated by the tax to support environmentally friendly projects, doubted its impact.

It said: 'The aggregates levy reduces demand for primary aggregates by increasing their cost and makes use of recycled and secondary materials more viable but it does not tackle the environmental impacts directly.'

Quarriers said the stone tax had actually increased the impact of quarrying on the environment through higher delivery vehicle mileage and more waste material.

And the report on a new system of revised transport grants by the DoT supports quarriers' claims that the levy has shown no environmental benefits, in direct contradiction to chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown's view.

In his Budget the chancellor claimed the levy supports 'reductions in noise and vibration, dust and other emissions to air, visual intrusion, loss of amenity and damage to wildlife habitats' The DoT report revealed that less than 12 per cent of the cash raised by the aggregates tax went to the sustainability fund.

Of the £300 million raised by the aggregates tax just £35 million is put into the fund.The rest of the money is spent shoring up the Treasury coffers following a cut in National Insurance contributions introduced alongside the tax.

The QPA argued that rather than the aggregates tax encouraging the environmental improvements it was the introduction of quarry planning application reviews and the environmental risk management processes that had most impact.

QPA director general Simon van der Byl said: 'The aggregates levy is supposed to be an environmental tax but even the Government now admits that the levy is having no direct environmental benefit.

'It has had little impact on mineral extraction or recycling in the sector, therefore no justification for the levy remains.

'As a matter of urgency the Government should now set out a timetable for withdrawing the levy and focus instead on policies that make a real contribution to the sustainability of the sector.'