Introduction into Aggregates

Natural aggregate consists of manufactured crushed stone and sand created by crushing bedrock, or naturally occurring unconsolidated sand and gravel.

Introduction (1): What are Aggregates?

Aggregates are crystalline or granular rocks that are extracted for use in the construction industry. These can be either primary aggregates (extracted from the ground in quarries) or secondary aggregates (recycled from construction waste). Aggregates are an essential material in building and repairing things such as roads, railways and homes. The following pages provide an introduction to aggregates, alongside a geological summary of the primary aggregate sources across Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

Different organisations may define aggregates in different ways. For example, the aggregates industry and British Geological Survey define a material as an aggregate if it is used within the construction industry. The range of materials classified as aggregates by these organisations is broad and includes the raw materials used in the manufacture of building materials, such as lime. By comparison, Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and HM Revenue and Customs have a much more specific list of recognised aggregates, mostly confined to sand, gravel and rock chippings, which are subject to the Aggregates Levy; an environmental tax on UK-produced commercial aggregate.

Further information on defining aggregates can be found through the web links below.

HM Revenue and Customs

Defra

British Aggregates Association

Minerals Products Association

Introduction (2): Types of Aggregate

Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has a list of extraction products that are subject to the Aggregates Levy. These products include the following:

  • Sand and Gravel
  • Limestone
  • Sandstone
  • Conglomerate
  • Crystalline rocks e.g. granite, dolerite, diorite, basalt

There are also numerous extraction products that are not recognised as aggregates by Defra, even though most are used in the construction industry and are accepted as aggregates by the British Geological Survey and the aggregate industry.These include:

  • Chalk (unless quarried for an aggregate, such as flint)
  • Materials used in iron, cement and steel production
  • Building/ornamental stone
  • Moulding/refractory sands
  • Materials used in brick manufacture (e.g. mudstone)
  • Coal/lignite
  • Materials used in China clay/ceramics manufacture
  • Mineral deposits
  • Glacial boulder clay
  • Soil/peat/other organic material
  • Materials used in lime production
  • Ironstone

Further information on aggregates can be found through the web links below.

Regional Aggregate Minerals Resource Map: West Midlands

Planning4Minerals: A Guide on Aggregates

Communities and Local Government: Mineral Policy Statement 1: Planning and Minerals

Introduction (3): The Aggregates Levy

This is an environmental tax imposed on producers of commercial aggregate in the United Kingdom. It came into effect in 2002 and was introduced to address the environmental costs associated with quarrying, such as noise, dust, visual intrusion, loss of amenity and damage to geological and biological diversity. Anyone responsible for commercially exploiting aggregate in the UK is required to pay the Levy, which is calculated based on the weight of aggregate they produce.

Part of the Aggregates Levy revenue is routed via the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ASLF), a fund that aims to reduce the environmental and social impacts of aggregate extraction. Between April 2008 and March 2011, the objectives of the Fund support Defra’s (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) goals of tackle the causes and consequences of climate change and securing a healthy natural environment. Funds are allocated to projects that satisfy one or more of the following criteria:

  • Quarries – reducing environmental footprint and making the most of the opportunities they offer
  • Marine – reduce the environmental footprint of marine extraction
  • Resource Use – deliver a more sustainable use of aggregates
  • Transport – reduce the environmental footprint of aggregate transport
  • Communities – deliver benefits to communities affected by extraction

Further information on the ALSF scheme can be found through the web link below:

Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund

Introduction (4): Aggregates resources at the Geological Records Centre

The Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust (EHT) host the Geological Records Centre (GRC), which houses an extensive archive of local geological information in the form of:

  • A comprehensive geological and geomorphological sites database
  • Digital Geological, Ordnance Survey and site information
  • Geological site reports
  • Site management plans for key localities
  • Peer- and non-peer reviewed research papers
  • General geology textbooks
  • Local geology publications
  • Regional geology publications
  • Ordnance Survey maps  at a variety of scales from 1:10,000
  • Geological Maps at a variety of scales from 1:10,000
  • Site photographs (digital and hard copy)
  • Collection of rock  and fossil samples from the two counties
  • Display collections for educational use
  • Thin sections
  • Rural and urban geology trail guides from the ‘Explore’ and ‘Discovery Trail Guide’ series

This information is available to individuals, public and private organisations, who are welcome to visit the Geological Records Centre (GRC) by appointment. It is also possible to submit requests for information using our online information request form.

Although most material is freely available, in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998, certain details such as personal or commercially sensitive information are withheld. For more information, see the EHT Data Access and Use Policy.

Introduction (5): Aggregates and the GAPs

In 2006, the Trust began work on Local Geodiversity Action Plans (GAPs) for the two counties after receiving funding from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ASLF).  This initiative included reviewing and recording a number of aggregate sites in Herefordshire and Worcestershire with the making of recommendations for the promotion of geology and geological heritage across both counties. These web pages on aggregates are part of an ongoing process to make the findings of the geodiversity audits more widely available to the public.

The Geological Records Centre holds information on a number of different types of site. These site classifications were set out by the Nature Conservancy Council and are as follows:

  • Active quarries and pits
  • Disused quarries  and pits
  • Coastal cliffs and foreshore
  • River and stream sections
  • Inland outcrops
  • Exposure of underground mines and tunnels
  • Extensive buried interest
  • Road, rail and canal cuttings
  • Static geomorphological features (landscape features that have been formed by processes that are no longer active)
  • Active geomorphological features (landscape features that are being formed by processes active today)
  • Caves
  • Karst
  • Finite mineral, fossil or other geological
  • Mine dumps
  • Finite underground mines and tunnels
  • Finite buried interest

Of these, the following pages provide overviews on active and disused aggregate quarries and pits within Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Quarries are considered to be sources of aggregate if a significant proportion of material quarried is used as aggregate. Therefore, sites that produce stone for uses additional to aggregates, such as building stone, may also be detailed.

Further information on Geodiversity Action Plans and geological conservation can be found through the web links below:

Herefordshire and Worcestershire Local GAPs

Geological Conservation: A Guide to Good Practice

Local Geodiversity Action Plans

UK Geodiversity Action Plan

For further information on county-specific aggregate quarrying, please click on the links below

Herefordshire Geological Succession

Geological time is divided into eons, eras, periods, epochs and ages, with eons representing the largest stretches of time (500 million years or more).

Learn More

Worcestershire Geological Succession

Geological time is divided into eons, eras, periods, epochs and ages, with eons representing the largest stretches of time (500 million years or more).

Learn More

These pages have been funded by Natural England through Defras Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund.

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