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Time for less talk and more action, says MPA

Nigel Jackson

Cautious welcome for PM’s speech but Association warns ‘build back better’ must deliver quicker

THE Mineral Products Association (MPA) has cautiously welcomed today’s speech by the Prime Minister and his determination to ‘build back better’, but warned that without a real focus on accelerated delivery it could disappoint and undermine confidence to invest.

Speaking in the West Midlands, Mr Johnson put jobs and infrastructure at the centre of the Government’s economic growth strategy and underlined his commitment to ‘build, build, build’, to upgrade Britain’s infrastructure and skills to fuel economic recovery across the UK in the wake of coronavirus.

He announced the bringing forward of £5 billion of capital investment projects, including, among others: £100 million this year for 29 road projects; more than £1 billion to fund the first 50 projects of a new, 10-year school rebuilding programme; and £900 million for a range of ‘shovel ready’ local growth projects in England over the course of this year and next.

Mr Johnson’s themes of investing in infrastructure, levelling up and improving the environment are all shared by the mineral products industry, as is the ambition to improve UK environmental performance and boost the economy and jobs in all regions.

The industry is playing its part environmentally. The MPA recently published updated figures showing Great Britain still top of the European table for recycled and secondary aggregates, which supply around 28% of market demand, and UK Concrete recently set out its approach to the net zero by 2050 roadmap, showing how to get to net negative emissions by 2050.

The MPA says one area in which the Government could help accelerate economic recovery is planning and permitting, with the recent commitment to the ‘most radical reforms of our planning system since the end of the Second World War’ providing an opportunity to refresh, refocus and properly resource this important function.

Surveys by the MPA show that over a 10-year period, land-won aggregates consumption outstrips the new reserves that are permitted, with 75% of crushed rock reserves and just 63% of sand and gravel reserves replaced between 2009 and 2018.

The MPA’s recent policy paper sets out key areas where the planning and permitting system could be reformed to ensure secure, steady and adequate mineral product supply to support a strong economic recovery.

Chief executive Nigel Jackson (pictured) said: ‘The MPA cautiously welcomes the Prime Minister’s speech and the determination to invest in infrastructure. Our industry, which typically supplies 1 million tonnes per day of mineral products to construction, manufacturing and other key sectors, stands ready to supply the essential materials for the projects announced today.

‘Government ambition is important but delivery is what really matters. Too often in the past successive Governments have talked a good game on infrastructure but either taken too long or failed to deliver.

‘Minimizing uncertainty to boost confidence to invest and fuel growth is the top priority after the need to protect people’s health. It is time for less talk and more concerted action that protects jobs and investment over the coming months and years as industry transitions from survival to growth.’

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