Quarry operators face tax increase
Quarry operators in Northern Ireland are set to be hit with a higher rate of environmental tax after a relief scheme was outlawed by a European court.
The Aggregates Levy Credit Scheme - which gives quarry firms an 80% discount on the tax - will be suspended from December 1, Treasury Economic Secretary Justine Greening said.
It follows a European General Court ruling which overturned approval for the state aid scheme.
In a written ministerial statement, Ms Greening said: "This date achieves a balance between complying with the court's judgment and giving industry fair and reasonable notice of the change.
"The Government remains a strong supporter of the scheme and continues to believe that it is the best way to drive the environmental improvements in the Northern Ireland quarrying industry that it was designed to stimulate."
The Aggregates Levy was introduced UK-wide in 2002, to address the environmental impact of quarrying, and is set at £1.60 per tonne.
But a tax break for Northern Ireland allowed an 80% discount to £0.32 per tonne as long as quarry operators agreed to carry out environmental improvements at their sites, and was given EU approval to run until March 2011.
Ms Greening said the European General Court had overturned that approval following action taken by the British Aggregates Association.
There are fears that removing the tax break could have knock-on effects for the cost of public sector construction projects if the cost of aggregates rises as a result.