Aggregate producers have reacted angrily to claims that in order to meet government commitments to build a million homes in England by 2020, councils would have to give planning approval for hundreds of new quarries.
The reaction follows concerns around meeting demands for sand and gravel for making concrete and mortar for construction, and for crushed rock for new roads, prompting suggestions councils would have to scramble to give planning permission for many more quarries.
The Independent reported environmental campaigners warning of mining companies riding 'roughshod across cash-strapped local authorities'.
Many of these, it said, are 'already struggling to cope with the number and complexity of applications' and 'rushing through the approval of new sites without carrying out proper impact assessments'.
But Murray Alston, technical consultant to the British Aggregates Association, which represents smaller producers, called the claims 'a gross exaggeration'.
Some of the country's 1300 existing quarries have had to be been mothballed and in general there is over capacity in the industry, he told Transport Network.
Jerry McLaughlin of the Mineral Products Association, representing major producers, said existing quarries can meet demand for the next five to ten years.
At the same time, the UK's recycling rate with aggregates is up to three times better than that on the European mainland, it was suggested.
Campaign to Protect Rural England minerals consultant, Bob Brown backed the government's new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for ensuring that 'strong protection for national landscape designations applies to minerals'.
He also welcomed the fact that mineral planning authorities' extraction targets are now based on analyses from previous years – 'an improvement on the previous predict-and-provide approach which consistently led to over-estimation of demand'.
However, he queried the replacement of a 'clear procedure' for dealing with environmental constraints to quarrying within individual planning authorities with a less specific ‘duty to co-operate’ between authorities.
'How effectively this will function remains to be seen', he said.