Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Mineral Products Association

The Mineral Products Association is the main sector Trade Association Representing the Mineral Products sector, encompassing the aggregates, recycling, cement, concrete, asphalt , lime and industrial sand industries. Our members supply 85% to 90% of the aggregates used in the UK and as such the industry has a considerable interaction with the natural environment. We did not make written representations to the NEWP Inquiry, but having now seen evidence submitted by the British Aggregates Association (NEWP 63) and MPA member company Cemex (NEWP 36), I thought the following comments might help to put the activities of the minerals industry in context, notably with regard to Biodiversity.

1. The minerals products industry represents the largest materials flow in the UK economy, supplying over 200 million tonnes per annum of minerals and mineral products. The industry’s scope includes the extraction of minerals, manufacturing processes, the use of materials in construction and a range of other industries and markets, recycling and the restoration and aftercare of land. We estimate that there are about 900 active aggregates quarries in Great Britain and 1,100 in the UK. The industry operates within a comprehensive regulatory environment, the principal regulators being local authority mineral planning departments and the Environment Agency in England and their equivalents in the devolved administrations. In addition to these regulators the industry has extensive working relationships with other public organisations as Natural England and English Heritage.

2. In the context of the Inquiry, the industry has contributed to the creation of wildlife habitats and amenity through its land restoration activities for many years and we are now working with partners to ensure that we can achieve the best biodiversity outcomes from restoration and operational activities.

3. The potential scope of the industry’s contribution to biodiversity was highlighted by RSPB research which indicated that the restoration of mineral sites could meet 100% or over of 9 out of eleven priority habitats in England by 2015. While the work arising from the Defra policy document “Biodiversity 2020- A strategy for England’s Wildlife and Ecosystem Services” may generate a different framework of specific targets and objectives, the actual and potential contribution of the minerals industry remains very significant. We attended the launch of Defra’s Ecosystem Markets Task Force and look forward to contributing to the work of this group.

4. In order to maximise the contribution of the minerals industry the MPA launched a Biodiversity Strategy in January 2011 including seven commitments to help deliver the Strategy, and a copy is attached.

5. The MPA and predecessor organisations have run a restoration awards scheme for forty years to recognise and encourage high quality quarry restoration, and in 2011 the first industry Biodiversity Awards scheme was held in order to reflect the increasing focus on Biodiversity outcomes from industry activities. These awards were sponsored by Natural England, highlighting the very positive and productive relationship between EN and the MPA and minerals industry.

6. The MPA and member companies have very positive working relationships with a wide range of conservation organisations and NGOs, including the RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, the British Trust for Ornithology, Pond Conservation and Buglife. The MPA has introduced a Biodiversity Exchange initiative to provide an opportunity for the industry and conservation organisations and interests to meet regularly and discuss how the industry and the conservation sector can work together to achieve improved biodiversity outcomes.

7. MPA has been closely involved in and supported the work of the Nature after Minerals project (NAM), set up by English Nature and the RSPB to encourage positive biodiversity outcomes from quarry restoration and to increase awareness of the opportunities, for example through the identification of biodiversity opportunities from the early stages of land use planning.

8. We were greatly disappointed by Defra’s decision in December 2010 to end support for NAM through the ending of the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund England in March 2011. The ALSF was introduced in 2002 with the Aggregates Levy so that resources would be made available for a variety of sustainability purposes related to mineral extraction, with the fund to be managed by Defra. Typically the ALSF has allocated £20 million pa for local community and sustainability projects, including NAM in recent years, compared with Aggregates Levy revenue of £300 million to £350 million pa. Defra scrapped the ALSF as it was not regarded as a “core” issue for Defra, in spite of the demonstrable and independently verified success of the ALSF. MPA proposed to Defra the retention of a more focussed ALSF (up to £10 million pa), concentrating on supporting biodiversity, conservation, heritage, climate change and local community projects, but this proposal has now been rejected by Defra. The Aggregates Levy rate is scheduled to increase by 5% in 201213, increasing Levy revenue by £15 million pa.

9. We have highlighted the loss of the ALSF because it is an example of Government failure to work holistically to optimise environmental policy outcomes. While appreciating the constraints on Government spending, the increasing taxation of aggregates extraction provided the opportunity to continue supporting the ALSF, which independent research commissioned by Defra in 2010 confirmed represented very good value for money.

10. The Minerals Industry has demonstrated that cooperation between industry and conservation organisations and NGOs and local communities to improve environmental outcomes is happening and has scope for further improvement—it is essential that the implementation of the NEWP and Biodiversity 2020 engages industry in these processes.

4 January 2012

Prepared 16th July 2012