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Need for aggregates outstrips new planning permissions

Words: Huw Morris
Mineral strategy / iStock-619640566

Demand for aggregates vital to construction and infrastructure is continuing to exceed the amount of new reserves permitted under the planning system.

A survey by the Mineral Products Association (MPA) found only 24 per cent of sales of sand and gravel reserves were replenished through new permissions last year. Only 3 per cent of sales of crushed rock last year were replenished through new permissions.

The survey reveals a slight increase in submissions for sand and gravel in 2017, with 15 sites compared with 13 sites in 2016, most being for extensions at existing operations. The number of crushed rock applications fell from four to five in 2016. Another 19 applications, down from 23 in 2016, were made for time extension applications and similar matters to maintain existing operations.

The number of determinations for mineral applications continues to be relatively low with a total of 10 approvals and five refusals, across both sand and gravel and crushed rock sites, compared with the heights of 2008/09 with more than 30 sites. Last year saw the highest number of refusals since 2003.

The survey shows that it takes 29.4 and 29.9 months respectively to secure permission for both sand and gravel and crushed rock reserves. Data for 2017 suggests that sand and gravel determinations took four months less than for those determined in 2016.

Mark Russell, MPA executive director of planning and mineral resources, said the revised National Planning Policy Framework had reinforced the importance of minerals to supporting housing and infrastructure but the poll shows their supply cannot be assumed.

A steady and adequate supply of aggregates needs to be planned, monitored and managed, all of which require support and strong direction from central government,” he added. “A well-supported, forward-looking managed aggregate supply system is vital to allow mineral planning authorities to plan in good time for future mineral demand, and to give the industry the confidence to plan forward investment to meet that same demand.”

Image credit | iStock