Natural stone resources across Europe are becoming harder to get at because of ever more stringent planning regulations. Euro-Roc, the Europe-wide organisation representing stone interests, put their concerns about that to Andreas Schwartz, Cabinet Director of EU Commissioner Verheugen, at their latest meeting in Brussels.
Representing the UK at the meeting was Graeme Robertson, who heads A & J Robertson (Granite) Ltd based in Aberdeen.
He reports from the meeting that stone industries across Europe are concerned that the sterilisation of sources of dimensional stone are leading to increased imports from the Far East.
Euro-Roc supported the EU\'s initiative to increase the supply of raw materials from European sources on a sustainable basis, but commented that access to natural stone was under pressure because of a lack of awareness of the importance of stone, inconsistent planning consents and uncertain permission procedures.
Euro-Roc felt that a restrictive interpretation of Natura 2000 meant areas that could be used for stone extraction had been closed to them.
Natura 2000 has evolved over the past 25 years as Europe has built up a network of more than 26,000 areas of nature conservation covering 850,000km2.
The legal basis for the Natura 2000 network comes from the Birds Directive (of 1979) and the Habitats Directive (1991).
Mr Schwartz said that although the EU could not help on planning issues, which were the province of each state\'s government, it could help with awareness of increased C02 emissions resulting from the distances stone had to travel to reach Europe from China and India.
When EuroRoc tried to present a dumping case at the turn of the Millennium it collapsed because stone companies across Europe enjoying the low prices failed to support the move.
Euro-Roc made the sensible point that it wants the natural stone industry to be excluded from the EU waste directive. Under the directive a block of stone cut from the face three years ago has to be treated as waste (one year if it contains more than 1% sulphur). The MEP Caroline Jackson has been approached on this matter.