Here we link to our latest positions on key policy areas and to our most recent publications on industry related issues.
Our key strategic document for presenting our priorities for Government and the industry’s actions to support them, Priorities for Government is updated roughly annually. A new version, looking ahead to the economic recovery from Covid and with more detail on meeting our net zero obligations, is in production.
Our submission to the Autumn 2021 Budget and Spending Review on 27th October can be viewed here, Budget and CSR 2021 submission: Delivering for the UK.
The UK’s departure from the EU presents a huge range of issues for all businesses. MPA members are affected by a number of issues, including changing terms of trade for products that are exported, such as dimension stone and industrial lime, and those that face competitive imports such as precast concrete and cement.
Our members in Northern Ireland face specific issues relating to its unique situation arising from the Northern Ireland protocol.
The Government’s National Infrastructure Strategy was published at the Spending Review, and is a welcome piece of work setting out some important decisions. This is how the increased capital budget promised in the Conservative manifesto will be spent, with many projects going ahead that will drive significant demand from MPA members.
The key issue for MPA is always delivery. Highways England’s Road Investment Strategy 1 from 2015-2020 saw 37 out of 112 projects delayed or cancelled, while many other projects such as the new nuclear programme and HS2 have also seen significant delays. The strategy does include a number of proposals to improve this, with a more efficient planning system and streamlined environmental regulation. We welcome attempts to improve the system but experience over many years is that these reforms are much easier to announce than deliver.
The UK has a legal target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and our industry needs to play its part. The UK concrete and cement industry has launched a roadmap to become net negative by 2050, removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits each year. Net zero can be met through decarbonised electricity and transport networks, fuel switching, greater use of low-carbon cements and concretes as well as Carbon Capture, Use or Storage (CCUS) technology for cement manufacture. A net negative industry by 2050 will be achieved by using the natural, in-use properties of concrete which include its ability to absorb carbon dioxide during use, and the benefit of using the thermal properties of concrete in buildings and structures to reduce operational emissions.
MPA published proposals to improve the planning system in spring 2020, drawing attention to the issues and challenges of our sector and how vital solving these is to delivering the housing, commercial development and infrastructure the UK needs as well as supplying other key industries. It is vital that policymakers make the link between their ambitions on housing and infrastructure and the mineral products needed to deliver them. Only 63% of sand and gravel reserves were replenished over the last decade, while crushed rock was a little better at 75%.
Our proposals to improve the planning system included small funding increases for the mineral planning system, a streamlined plan making process, ensuring that information requirements are material, reasonable and necessary. To tackle some issues specific to our sector, we called National Statements of Need for minerals and mineral products, regional centres of excellence for mineral planning, and establishing planning permission as the primary licence to operate.
The Government White Paper Planning For the Future was released in August 2020, which focused on housing to the exclusion of nearly everything else. MPA has engaged with MHCLG to press the need to make the link from housing ambitions to the mineral products sector.
Nature recovery – the establishment of larger areas of habitat, of better quality and more joined (the ‘Lawton Principles) – is gaining in importance in nature conservation policy and delivery. This is an acknowledgement that protection of existing areas, including sites designated for their importance, is not enough to address the enormous losses of biodiversity that have occurred over recent decades, with consequent effects on wider environmental quality and the economy.
The Environment Bill (England) introduces the requirement for Local Nature Recovery Strategies that will cover the whole of England, which will identify opportunities for recovery and enhancement of biodiversity.
Significantly, the Environment Bill also introduces a requirement for new development (with a few exemptions) to deliver a net ‘gain’ in biodiversity value of at least 10% - measured as the difference in ‘biodiversity units’ present before and after the development. New minerals developments will have to comply with this new requirement.
The biodiversity value will be calculated using a new ‘Metric’ that is being developed by Defra and Natural England. The Metric version 2.0 is due to be launched at the end of 2020.
Once the Environment Bill has been passed and received Royal Assent (expected in Summer 2021) there will be a 2 year transition period while secondary legislation and guidance is produced, before net gain becomes a legal requirement. The Town & Country Planning Act 1990 will be amended to include the requirement for net gain.
The MPA is concerned that the concept and the Metric specifically, have been developed to address losses to biodiversity caused by development other than minerals, particularly housing and infrastructure. It has not been designed to apply to minerals extraction, which occurs over many years and more often than not results in restoration and significant biodiversity enhancements. The MPA is engaging with Defra, Natural England and others to ensure that net gain is applied proportionately and practicably to minerals development, recognising that current practice delivers net gain, and to avoid unintended and undesirable outcomes.
Aggregates extraction pays a levy of £2 per tonne, generating around £400 million revenue for HMRC every year. The rate has been frozen since 2009, representing a cumulative saving to MPA members of nearly £1 billion since then.
In 2019 the Government launched a review of the levy. MPA and MPANI responded, and took part in extensive stakeholder consultation with HM Treasury. In the response, we demonstrated that there was no evidence of environmental impact that justified the cost so called for a continued freeze with two specific suggestions for spending a small proportion of the revenue to support the sector. These were restoring the Communities Fund to invest in local projects near extraction sites, and to support the mineral planning system which we believe to be underfunded.
Government published a summary of responses to it in July 2020, along with some technical next steps. However, a decision on the rate and a response to our case for the Community Fund and support for mineral planning will wait for the Budget in Spring 2021.
At the March 2020 Budget the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the red diesel rebate would be removed from April 2022 for most sectors that currently have it, other than farming, forestry and rail. This was subject to a consultation, which we responded to (link to consultation response). MPA argued that for our sector there was no likely alternative for diesel fueled equipment at the power and capacity needed in our sector in the foreseeable future, and that changing the tax treatment would not noticeably alter this. We have received support from MPs across the House in response to an MPA-led campaign with our membership and await the response from the consultation.
Road safety is hugely important for our industry, which operates some of the heaviest vehicles on the road. MPA members are all either FORS or ISO39001 accredited and those in London are already compliant with the Direct Vision Standard, ahead of its start date.
MPA is a Construction Logistics and Community Safety (CLOCS) Champion.
The introduction of e-scooters onto the UK’s roads is a major concern for us because people using them will be more vulnerable than cyclists. Their smaller wheels and lower centre of gravity means they are less stable and much less able to cope with potholes. MPA has consistently opposed their being legalised for use on the road on safety grounds.
Sand is one of the most sought-after natural materials, and in some parts of the world illegal harvesting and extraction is causing significant environmental degradation. That is not the case in the UK where we have robust regulation for extraction from the land and also at sea. Sand is an essential ingredient of concrete which is fundamental to the whole built environment, from housing to infrastructure.
We are not running out of sand in the UK, and there is a well-run, thoroughly-regulated system in place to extract sand where it is available, to supply the whole country. Globally there is a more significant issue with rapid urbanisation and weak regulation producing unsustainable, and in some cases illegal, extraction.
Read MPA’s position paper on sand supply.
The Mineral Products Association (MPA) is the trade association for the aggregates, asphalt, cement, concrete, dimension stone, lime, mortar and silica sand industries.