Most of the supply of aggregates within England comes from indigenous sources. However significant quantities are also imported, from elsewhere in the United Kingdom and small amounts come by sea from elsewhere in Europe.
Supplies from elsewhere in the UK
Significant quantities of crushed rock aggregates, as well as some crushed slate, from North Wales are used in England, particularly in the North-West Region. Quantities go from South Wales to the English Midlands but these roughly balance out with levels of supply from England into South Wales.
Supplies of primary aggregates from Wales to England in 2005 (million tonnes)
|Supply Region||Type of aggregate||Used in Wales||Used in England||Total||% of exports used in North West Region|
|North Wales||Crushed Rock||2.789||3.421||6.210||86|
|Sand and Gravel||0.728||0.509||1.237||91|
|South Wales||Crushed Rock||8.371||2.479||10.850|
|Sand and Gravel||0.431||0.009||0.440|
|Sand and Gravel||1.159||0.500||1.677|
While supplies are likely to be maintained from existing permitted reserves for some time, it is likely that these will begin to taper off in the future because of policies of the Welsh Assembly Government to eventually limit future supplies to use within Wales.
Supplies by road from Scotland are small because there are few aggregates quarries in the Southern Uplands of Scotland. However some material is carried by sea from Scotland to England, from the Glensanda Quarry on the west coast of Scotland, to a wide range of ports in England. Small amounts come by sea from Northern Ireland to the North-West of England.
Supplies from mainland Europe
Modest quantities of aggregates come from mainland Europe either as aggregate or in value-added products such as concrete blocks. A review study published in 2005 L0549 indicated:-
Imports from Norway of crushed rock and gravel (million tonnes)
Source: Statistics Norway - figures probably include rock for use as armourstone in coast defences
Imports from France and the Irish Republic of crushed rock and gravel (million tonnes)
Source: United Nations COMTRADE data base
In 2004 these imports consisted of about 1% of supply to Great Britain but most was probably landed in London and the South East of England.
Future potential for supply may exist in relatively nearby European countries where suitable hard rock occurs at, or close to, the coastline so that crushed rock can be loaded directly into ships. Suitable circumstances occur in Portugal and northern Spain as well as France and Norway.
Imports of concrete blocks (million tonnes)
Source: HM Customs and Excise
Certain specialist aggregates are not produced in significant quantities, or at all, in the UK and necessarily have to be imported.
Costs can be favourably reduced if ships can carry return loads of other commodities after delivering the aggregates. A key constraint on imports of aggregates by sea is existing wharf capacity. The limitations on capacity leads to competition between products for space and unloading time with the advantage falling to high priced commodities while aggregates are relatively low priced. This situation has been exacerbated by the conversion of former wharves to other uses such as residential development. Therefore steps have been taken in some areas, notably in London, to safeguard certain wharves for the landing of aggregates L0548. Another issue is, though, whether we should be "exporting our environmental damage to other countries" when we have viable sources at environmentally acceptable sites within England.