Damian Carrington writes in The Guardian environment blog:
Having united the Socialist Workers Party with the National Trust, the UK's department for environment (Defra) has pulled off another unlikely pairing: the Mineral Products Association (MPA) and the Wildlife Trusts.Yes indeed, it's quite an achievement to have united such disparate bodies.
The issue is the pocketing by the Treasury of about £20m a year in taxes from the aggregates industry – gravel and sand quarrying – that had until now been spent on conservation schemes.
"I can't understand why the government has cut this funding. The money comes from a tax that encourages industry to reduce the amount of quarrying, and the industry is happy to see this money used to put something back, for nature and people," Jeremy Biggs told me.
He is director of Pond Conservation, which, along with the RSPB and others, has joined the campaign to reverse the cut. "Cutting the aggregates fund will reduce the quality of habitat restoration after quarries are worked out, and seems unbelievably short-sighted and counter-productive."
And a commenter on his blog, Xemxija, writes:
A small part of the Aggregates Levy was given to English Heritage to distribute in order to fund excavations when unexpected finds were made in quarries, and to analyse and disseminate the results of these excavations.
In general the quarry companies have been quite accepting of the 'polluter pays' idea - that if they are destroying natural environments and archaeological remains then they must make a contribution towards recording the archaeology and restoring the landscape (although not surprisingly, as the effects of the credit crunch have bitten deeper, they have become less and less happy).
It is extraordinarily grasping of the government to just keep the small part of the Aggregates Levy which went to English Heritage and to English Nature. It transforms the Levy from compensation for damage caused to a simple tax.
And it makes it very clear to the quarry companies that despite what the government says, it places it very little value on our environment and heritage.
What you can do: write to DEFRA and to your MP, pointing out that the Aggregates Levy was a valuable contribution to the environment and to rescue archaeology; that it was only a small proportion of the total Aggregates Levy; and that it is an expression of the principle that the polluter pays to clean up after themselves.