Saturday, 12 April 2014

Now it's our turn to lobby Government

There's ‘no need for any more new quarries’ according to S Walsh - a construction company lobbying central government to escalate the Aggregates Levy in an attempt to increase the use of secondary aggregates, of which Devon and Cornwall have hundreds of millions of tonnes littering the landscape.

S Walsh argues that just as the Landfill Tax - now £80/tonne - has reduced the need for landfill, an Aggregates Levy escalator would do the same for quarries. They are convinced that there’s "no need to dig holes in the countryside” because there are "billions of tonnes of waste that can be used as aggregates". They dismiss claims made by some, including Aggregate Industries, that secondary aggregates are not suitable for all purposes.

As S Walsh reminds us, the Aggregates Levy was introduced "to encourage the use of secondary aggregates in order to reduce the environmental damage caused by the mining and production of primary aggregates”. However, the quarry industry trade body has successfully lobbied against any further increases to the levy, which has been stuck at £2/tonne for several years. To promote the use of waste materials, secondary aggregates were exempt from the levy until a recent, and one hopes temporary, suspension. Hundreds of jobs in Cornwall are now resting on an EU decision.

Last month, S Walsh won the contract to supply the South East with secondary aggregates derived from china clay waste in Cornwall. However, without a higher Aggregates Levy to promote sustainable sources of materials, the company’s directors believe that wider use of secondary aggregates will not come about:
Our message is clear... quarries should only be used as a last resort. Digging and filling holes in our countryside does not provide a sustainable future for Britain’s building requirements. We seek that Government introduce an Aggregates Levy Escalator in next year’s budget to create thousands of sustainable green British jobs which will make the UK a worldwide leader in sustainable building.
S Walsh has prepared a briefing document "The Case for the acceleration of Aggregates Levy escalator in the UK". It makes a powerful argument. Had the Aggregates Levy been £10/tonne in 2012, S Walsh claims HMRC revenues would have increased by c. £2 billion, and most of the aggregates used in the UK would have come from secondary and sustainable sources.

If readers feel as strongly as we do about the nonsense of digging virgin aggregates when piles of waste lie unused around the country, they can email their MP or the government, particularly the names below*, with their own thoughts, or with the following message:
To promote the use of sustainable building materials, we call on Government to:
1) progressively increase the Aggregates Levy on primary aggregates, to
a) encourage the use of alternative sustainable materials, and
b) to better reflect the environmental costs of their extraction
2) ensure that china clay waste, and other waste materials that can be used as aggregates, are exempt from the Aggregates Levy
S Walsh is contacting DCC on the issue; obviously with hundreds of millions of tonnes of china clay waste, Devon is a special case, and the last place in the country that needs any new quarries.