Quarry demands on rural areas

COUNTRYSIDE areas in eastern England amounting to more than ten square miles will have to be sacrificed to quarrying if predicted demand for aggregates in the region is to be met up to the year 2016, according to a countryside pressure group.

COUNTRYSIDE areas in eastern England amounting to more than ten square miles will have to be sacrificed to quarrying if predicted demand for aggregates in the region is to be met up to the year 2016, according to a countryside pressure group.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said the rate of extraction of materials in the region could account for millions of lorry movements over the next 12 years.

On a national basis, it estimated that holes equivalent to an area the size of Birmingham could be needed if the Government stuck to its traditional "predict and provide" mineral extraction policy.

The policy involves estimating demand and then requiring county councils to ensure there is provision by granting enough mineral extraction consents.

According to Government figures more than 2.5 billion tonnes of aggregates could be required between now and 2016, involving more than 100 million lorry journeys.

Many areas of countryside have already been earmarked for quarrying, with 5,776 million tonnes of new aggregates waiting to be dug up.

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The aggregate extraction industry, county councils, builders and countryside watchdogs are eagerly awaiting publication of the Government's new policy statement.

The Government has already suggested that the construction industry aims for a target of using 60 million tonnes of recycled materials in England by 2011. However, CPRE does not believe this goes far enough.

It wants the Government to change its approach to minerals planning by measures to minimise use of materials, place more emphasis on meeting actual need and encourage greater use of recycled and "alternative" aggregates.

CPRE also wants greater protection for high value landscapes from the threat of quarrying and more work to reduce damage caused by existing quarries.

"It is not just more unnecessary holes in the countryside that we have to worry about and the landscape damage that entails.

"Digging deep into the countryside brings disturbance to communities, chokes country lanes with noise and dust from lorries and shatters rural tranquillity," said Jill Hatcher, CPRE's senior natural resources campaigner.

The Government's own plans for new housing, roads and flood defences would eat up vast amounts of material, she said.

"Meeting our construction needs should not compromise the character of the countryside, its tranquillity, ecology or heritage.

"We must dig less and plan better for quarrying in the countryside before it is too late - because once our landscape is lost, it is gone forever," she added.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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