by ADAM CORNELL A SAND and gravel pit has been forced to close after their main customer went into liquidation.

The pit, on Tillingham Road, Asheldham, closed on Tuesday March 31.

But the decision will surprise many as it comes at a time when Essex County Council is looking to extract 4.41 million tonnes of sand and gravel every year for the next 15 to 20 years.

The pit, owned by Lafarge Aggregates Ltd, extracted 30,000 tonnes each year and employed three people.

Company spokesman Andy Hodgson said: “Our main customer has gone into liquidation and as a result it is not viable anymore.

“Our two full-time members of staff will be relocated. The part-time member had the option to move but decided not to and took redundancy as of today - March 31.

“At this point in may come into play again but it is closed for the forseeable future.”

One member of staff will now be working on a marine wharf project near the Thames and the other close to Ipswich.

Mr Hodgson said: “It is always sad to close a site but it was necessary in the current economic climate.”

The move is in direct contrast to current steps by Essex County Council to increase the amount of sand and gravel provided from around the county each year.

A recent consultation identified possible major sites - including a 47.5 hectare site between Danbury and Woodham Mortimer at Tynedales Farm - as the council responded to Government targets to provide more aggregates.

And Goldsands Quarry, Southminster, has just been given an extended period of extraction until 2015 by the council.

But Mr Hodgson said that the site in Asheldham was too small to be saved without the major customer, may well be too far away to be of use to Essex County Council and that by the time the consultation was completed it would be too late for the pit.