Measure the scale of an industry simply by the weight of material it produces, and aggregates - the quarrying of sand, gravel and stone - easily ranks as the biggest in Britain. Its output runs at a rate approaching 300 million tonnes a year even in the present construction industry recession. It is three times larger than the coal industry and is projected to grow to 400 million tonnes a year over the next two decades.
As the basic material for all construction (whether it be roads, hospitals, homes, schools, airports or tunnels), every man, woman and child in the land 'consumes' six tonnes of it every year. That insatiable appetite is becoming progressively more difficult to slake.
In the mid-'70s, an official government inquiry, headed by Sir Ralph Verney, produced a report with the less-than-compelling title 'Aggregates: the Way Ahead'. It warned of a potential supply famine.