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24 February 2011

Mineral Products Industry and Conservation Groups Join Forces to Call for Reprieve for Key Environmental Fund Cut by Government

The Minerals Industry and leading Conservation organisations have joined together to call on Government to reconsider its decision to scrap the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF).

Both industry and conservation organisations urge Government to review the withdrawal of the ALSF so that aggregates levy funding continues to be made available. The ALSF helps ensure that biodiversity and nature conservation improvements are maximized through minerals industry activity.  It has been a great example of central and local government, voluntary and conservation bodies, local communities and industry all working together to generate real environmental and social benefits. There remains great potential for further progress which Government can continue to support through future ALSF funding.

The ALSF aims to reduce the environmental impacts of aggregates extraction and deliver benefits to areas subject to these impacts. It is the means by which about 6% of the Aggregates Levy revenue has been recycled into communities, non government organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders to fund projects delivering conservation, local community and other sustainability benefits. The ALSF was introduced at the same time as the Aggregates Levy in April 2002.

The Aggregates Levy generates more than £300 million of revenue annually. This will rise by £15 million pa when the levy rate is increased in April 2011. Total ALSF spending has averaged £20 million pa.

Defra, which administers the ALSF, has announced that it is scrapping the ALSF because it “did not represent a core activity for the Department.” However, an independent assessment commissioned by Defra in 2010 concluded that “Overall, the value for money assessment is good and many areas offer evidence of excellent potential value for money particularly in the medium term.”

The ALSF has funded a wide range of conservation projects producing outstanding results of both national and local importance, and the ALSF funded Nature after Minerals project has identified that the restoration of quarries has the further potential to meet and exceed a significant share of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

 Retention of the ALSF is strongly supported by both industry and leading conservation organisations.

 “Our industry has provided a legacy of sites of great conservation value and we have worked closely with conservation partners and local communities to do this. ALSF funding has strongly supported this work and has helped to highlight the huge contribution mineral sites can make to achieving local and national biodiversity objectives. It is vital that aggregates levy revenue continues to be used for this vital purpose.”

Nigel Jackson, Chief Executive, Mineral Products Association

 

“We have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds via the ALSF on protecting threatened species and restoring vital wildlife habitats. Using money from this fund we have created heathland, reedbed, and grasslands across England loved by birds, plantlife, insects and people. Losing this vital source of funding jeopardizes our ability to help the Government reach its commitment to halt the decline in biodiversity by 2020.”

Darren Moorcroft, Head of Countryside Conservation, RSPB

 

“The ALSF is a vital funding stream in our work to enhance the natural environment and people’s engagement with it. Whilst we understand the government’s need to reduce the national debt this is extremely disappointing news for local communities and the natural environment. It will cut off a significant source of funding at a time when the challenges for local organisations are growing and the resources available decreasing.”

Stephanie Hilbourne OBE, Chief Executive,The Wildlife Trusts

 

“ALSF funding has enabled us to employ a dedicated Minerals Officer to support the creation of high quality ponds on aggregates sites. These new ponds contribute to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan targets and provide habitats for threatened wetland species. We need ALSF funding to continue in order to carry on with this important work.”

Jeremy Biggs, Director, Pond Conservation

 

“With Aggregates Levy funding, Buglife has worked very successfully with minerals companies to take steps to save the White Clawed Crayfish from extinction – a Government biodiversity target. The Levy has proven a wonderful way of getting companies to contribute to saving wildlife but, without the funding it provides, small charities will not be able to marshal the expertise, voluntary contribution and enthusiasm to work in partnership with the minerals industry for the good of society. We fear that progress towards saving the endangered White Clawed Crayfish could be undone.”

Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive, Buglife

 

“The ending of the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund will hinder opportunities to improve our green spaces and green infrastructure – it is a backward step for local communities”

Mike Master, Chairman, Groundwork East of England

ENDS

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