Monday, 8 December 2014

Latest musings from Aggregate Industries’ trade body

MPA wonders why we need Minerals Plans at all

The Mineral Products Association continues to complain of inertia in the planning system, and claims that "unless the situation changes, at some point in the near future the options for maintaining a steady and adequate supply of aggregates could become seriously limited". Mineral planning applications apparently remain low, and the MPA thinks that "the lack of completed mineral development frameworks has had a significant contributory effect". And yet, the MPA also tells us that "the greater proportion of new permissions granted since 2006 were for sites that were not allocated in mineral plans" and "around 90% of all mineral applications are successful". The MPA says:
That speaks volumes about the health of the plan-led system and is worrying as it weakens an already difficult situation, since those who engage with the plan-led system are paying twice for gathering data and putting sites into the system, only to see other sites getting permission at lower cost. Either we have a plan led system, or we don’t - some are beginning to wonder why we need plans at all.

Next time you buy a 25kg bag of cement from B&Q (currently £5.90, 5 or more for £4.15 each), spare a thought, the MPA would say, for the cost pressures the industry is under - particularly carbon-related costs. The MPA claims the UK cement industry is being unfairly treated, but this is the same industry that for every 25kg bag puts around 25kg of CO2 into the atmosphere, the same industry that is responsible for somewhere between 5-10% of all man-made CO2 emissions. The UK cement industry has pledged to reduce its CO2, yet its emissions in 2013 were up on 2012; the words climate change appeared nowhere in the MPA's press release.

The MPA has yet again called on the Government to reduce the regulatory burdens its members face. It estimates that "environmental and planning-based regulatory costs are set to increase from £324 million in 2013 to £641 million pa in 2020". Is this overly burdensome, as the MPA argues, for a sector turning over £9 billion annually, or just an indication of the scale of the industry’s environmental impact?

The MPA has called on the Government to freeze the Aggregates Levy for 2015/16 and "following the conclusion of current legal processes, that there is a review process to assess the role and appropriate level for the Levy going forward". It also calls for "the introduction of an Aggregates Levy Community Fund to be considered at a lower cost than the previous Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, with more of a community and biodiversity focus".