§ Sir Geoffrey Finsberg
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the long-term forecast of demand for aggregates.
§ Mr. Yeo
New forecasts of the demand for aggregates for the next 20 years have been prepared by independent consultants. These have been published today. They are not Government plans or targets to be met.403W
The forecasts are based on the longer-term prospects for construction investment and indicate a rising trend in demand for betweeen 421 million tonnes per annum and 490 million tonnes per annum by 2001—about 4 per cent. a year.
The Government are publishing the forecasts now so that the environmental implications of the rising demand for aggregates can be fully considered. These are a matter for serious concern. The forecasts do not mean that the demand must be met from new sources of land-won aggregates. Nor do they mean that targets are set for production by the minerals industry.
Aggregates are needed to meet the demand for improvements to transport infrastructure, house building, improvements in water quality and hospitals. The Government are currently revising the present guidelines for aggregates provision in England and Wales which were published in mineral planning guidance note No. 6—MPG6—in March 1989.
The Government recognise that the mining of aggregates is a matter of considerable public concern and that there is a widespread view that the industry's operations lack sufficient regard for the environment. Before new guidelines are published the Government will wish to hear from the industry what practical steps they intend to take to improve their environmental performance and their standing with the public.
The Government will expect the industry to make greater use of alternative sources of supply. These include the potential from marine dredged sand and gravel; the greater use of materials such as china clay, sand and colliery minestone; and the increased exploitation of waste and recycled materials including power station ash, blast furnace slag and crushed concrete. We shall also consider the contributions that can be made from coastal super quarries. The Government have research in hand to examine all these options.
The publication of the forecasts will enable the Government to consider the view of local authorities, the industry and the general public about the future demand for aggregates, before publishing draft guidelines for public consultation.
The Government will consider whether the present policy of ensuring a steady supply for the construction industry remains appropriate and whether it encourages efficiency in aggregates use. The regional aggregates working parties have been asked to consider the medium and long-term implications of the forecasts on their regions.
While the forecasts provide general background information about trends in demand, their use in relation to the consideration of a particular application on development plan is necessarily limited until the revised guidelines are published. MPG6 remains the Government's policy for aggregates provision until it is revised. Mineral planning authorities should have regard to the statement made by the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, lichen (Mr. Chope) in July 1989 which made it clear that MPG6 should be implemented as a matter of priority.