Friday, 5 April 2013

Landbanks - government guidance says they don't matter any more

At least when it comes to deciding if a new quarry should be permitted. Which is bad news for anybody looking to Devon's 15 year landbank of sand and gravel as a reason for denying Aggregate Industries permission to quarry Straitgate Farm.

The Government published Guidance on the Managed Aggregate Supply System in October 2012, and such advice was apparently considered when DCC prepared its LAA. However, the LAA did not allude to what surely every mineral operator will latch on to, and what was relied upon by AI in its submission to the Competition Commission (CC) released earlier this year, namely:
Moreover, as the CC notes, the new planning guidance issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government states that adequate landbanks should not be used as a reason for declining a planning application. (5.14)
Which goes some way to explaining why AI is merrily proceeding with Straitgate, despite the county having 8 years' supply of sand and gravel over and above what's required by the NPPF, and despite what DCC said as recently as 2011:
For as long as adequate sand and gravel reserves (i.e. a minimum of seven years’ supply) continue to be present at the existing quarries, there are no grounds to allow their further extension or new quarries. (5.1.4)
AI plainly couldn't care how DCC's landbank is calculated - weighted ten year average or otherwise. To AI it's irrelevant, since government guidance clearly states:
each application for minerals extraction must be considered on its own merits, regardless of the length of the landbank… an adequate or excess landbank is not a reason for withholding planning permission unless there are other planning objections which are not outweighed by planning benefits. (25,26)
Yes, such advice is but one of a number of material considerations by which a planning application would need to be judged, but government planning policy would tend be relied upon by the legal might of an aggregates giant. Straitgate would therefore have to be assessed on its "own merits" if AI were to advance an application, in which case there are a number of other substantive planning objections, as this blog has attempted to highlight.