Offshore Marine Aggregates


Aggregate Dredger

'Aggregates’ is the collective term for sand, gravel and crushed rock. They are essential raw materials for the construction industry and are also widely used in beach replenishment schemes. The majority of the demand is met by aggregates extracted from land-based sources. In the last 40 years the aggregate dredging industry has been increasingly reliant on marine sources to satisfy the UK’s increasing demand. Today approximately 21% of the sand and gravel demand of England and Wales is met by the marine aggregate industry.
The main areas for marine aggregate extraction around the UK are off the south and east coast of England. Substantial deposits of sand and gravel exist for example on the seabed of the eastern English Channel, the outer Thames Estuary and the South coast region.

Role of JNCC in Provision of Nature Conservation Advice to the Marine Aggregate Industries


JNCC work closely with the British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA) and individual dredging companies to ensure their awareness and understanding of our advice regarding nature conservation issues. Regular contact on casework and policy issues within JNCC and the Country Agencies ensures that common standards are applied wherever this is possible and practical.


Licence procedure

Aggregate Dredger


In order to carry out commercial extraction activities dredging companies must obtain both a licence from The Crown Estate and a permission from the regulator. Marine aggregate extraction beyond territorial waters is currently regulated by the Marine and Fisheries Agency (MFA) section within Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).The Crown Estate owns the mineral rights to the seabed, extending to the limits of the UK continental shelf (UKCS). They issue licences for the commercial extraction of aggregates and for non-exclusive sampling. Following a successful tender, applicants for a dredging licence undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as part of the legislative procedure. The MFA with advice from statutory consultees including JNCC review the EIA in order to determine whether a licence should be granted.


Regional Environmental Assessments


In order to ensure regional sustainability of aggregate extraction and improving the evidence base for individual licence applications the marine aggregate industry has made a voluntary commitment to undertake Regional Environmental Assessments (REAs) for a number of strategic areas of extraction. The first REA was commissioned by the East Channel Association (ECA) for the East Channel Region (ECR) and published in 2003 presenting a regional assessment of potential impacts of dredging in the ECR. Following the completion of the REA, a regional environmental monitoring programme was developed by the ECA to test the predictions of the REA. REAs have also been commissioned for the outer Thames Estuary, the South Coast region around the Isle of Wight,  the Humber region and the East Coast region off Great Yarmouth.

JNCC and Natural England are involved in the REA process for all strategic regions. JNCC and Natural England are members of the Regulatory Advisors Group, which has developed principles, guidance and methodologies for the REAs from nature conservation and marine and historic environment perspectives.


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Regional Envrionmental Assessment: A framework for he marine minerals sector:152KB              




For further information on marine aggregates, including applicable legislation, and the Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund refer to  Aggregates - Key Information.