Government launches Aggregates Tax Sustainability Fund
THE new Aggregates Tax Sustainability Fund was officially launched last month by Environment Minister Michael Meacher as a way of helping reduce the environmental impact of primary aggregates extraction. The £35 million per annum fund will initially run for two years and is being financed by the £1.60 per tonne aggregates tax which came into force on 1 April 2002.
In addition to channelling revenue back into communities affected by heavy aggregate extraction, and promoting more environmentally friendly extraction and processing methods, the fund will also aim to reduce demand for primary aggregates through research into alternatives as well as encouraging the recycling and reuse of aggregates.
England is to receive a total of £58.6 million from the fund over the next two financial years, of which £15.5 million will be allocated to reducing demand for primary aggregates and encouraging recycling and reuse through a joint initiative to be delivered by the not-for-profit Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and Construction Innovation and Research Management (CIRM), a DTI programme.
However, both the Quarry Products Association and the British Aggregates Association have expressed deep reservations about the likely effectiveness of the new sustainability fund.
QPA director general Simon van der Byl said the Association remained deeply concerned that the fund would not bring the benefits promised to local communities. The QPA has called for 50% of the fund to be for projects within a three-mile radius of quarrying communities but says there is no such commitment from the Government.
‘There are no criteria set out for measuring the environmental benefits to be derived from the use of the fund, which means that there is a real danger that the money could disappear into endless and self-perpetuating research and NGO pet projects with little benefit for local quarrying communities,’ he warned.
‘The quarrying industry has been frozen out of any involvement in the use of the fund in spite of its strong record in funding and supporting local and environmental initiatives. The fund will not be used effectively unless there is a requirement for NGOs and others to work in partnership with the aggregates industry.’
BAA director Robert Durward responded to Michael Meacher’s claims that the new sustainability fund would be ‘good news for everyone’ and would ‘benefit the environment’ by saying the Minister’s comments were ‘highly contentious and misleading’.
Describing the fund as little more than a cynical attempt by government to give an appearance of respectability to yet another of its stealth taxes, he said the fund would be paid for by the aggregates tax which would cause a 35% increase in the cost of primary aggregates.
‘As almost 40% of all aggregates are used by the public sector, it will be the taxpayer who will have to pay for this cunning measure through increased council tax and business rates,’ he said.