Housing and infrastructure ambitions need resilient and dynamic UK supply chains – MPA
The mineral products industry needs to continue to invest through the whole supply chain says Mineral Products Association’s Jerry McLaughlin
Pretty much everyone agrees that we have a chronic shortage of housing and there needs to be some serious action to increase the supply of housing. Government has boosted demand for new housing through the Help to Buy initiative, has taken steps to try and speed up the operation of the planning system and to free-up land for development and is again reviewing the performance of the major housebuilders. But if we really want to provide 300,000 new homes annually in England there needs to be parallel consideration of the long-term capacity and ability of the supply chain required to support delivery. And this means the real supply chain. There is always a lot of focus on new ways of providing housing and of course innovation is important but most of the materials we will use to build houses and provide infrastructure over the next twenty-five years are the ones we use now ie the concrete, blocks, bricks and mortar.
We produce 360 million tonnes of mineral products annually in Great Britain, of which 70% are extracted or dredged and 30% obtained from recycled sources. To date the construction and other industries reliant on these mineral and materials, for example glass and steelmaking, chemical, pharmaceuticals and agriculture, have been supplied successfully with UK mineral products. A process which has supported jobs and economic activity throughout the UK – particularly in rural areas. To enable this UK supply success story to continue the mineral products industry needs to continue to invest through the whole supply chain in new and improved operations, in all modes of delivery transport and in people. But the policy and regulatory systems need to facilitate this process and support the competitiveness of the industry. They can do this by a clearer recognition that UK supply chains such as mineral products are a pre-requisite for delivering housing and infrastructure ambitions and the broader social benefits arising from well planned and well executed development. In practical terms this means Government should:
- Ensure policy clarity through initiatives such as Industrial Strategy that key UK supply chains such as mineral products, literally the foundation of the nation, are properly recognised and valued.
- Better resource the mineral planning system. Expertise in local authorities has diminished as budgets have been squeezed and national data surveys have been cut. But unless these resources are sufficient and established, the best intentions of industry and government to support the delivery of national policy ambitions won’t be realised. The aggregates industry pays £400 million per year in aggregates levy so finding the resources from this existing pot should be possible.
- Ensure that post Brexit environmental and sustainability standards remain high. Don’t lower standards but look for opportunities to improve policy implementation and reduce inefficiencies in regulatory process. Don’t saddle energy intensive industries with energy-related costs which are internationally uncompetitive.
Get this policy architecture right and our housing and infrastructure ambitions can be realised with the support of resilient and dynamic supply chains operating throughout the UK.
The National Federation of Builders have responded to MPA, saying: "We agree with the MPA and encourage the Government to understand how the whole construction supply chain operates in reality" Read their full remarks here