Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Minerals and the NPPF - three more viewpoints

We already know the views of the Mineral Products Association - Aggregate Industries' trade body - when it comes to the NPPF, with its press release earlier this year "One Year on the National Planning Policy Framework May Already be Failing to Deliver Certainty for Mineral Extraction". But from an article published last month by The Construction Index "Are changes in the planning regime failing to safeguard the future supply of essential construction materials? Is it a real threat?" we learn some additional viewpoints.

Firstly, the chief executive of the MPA again complains, claiming “In spite of the undoubted and well-intentioned aims of the NPPF, the weight being given to it and interpretation and implementation are proving variable,” and “What I hear from members is that they are not making applications unless it is critical to staying in business”. Apparently the MPA is trying to tackle the problem by appealing to the public directly to support quarrying. (No, we haven't had the call yet!)

But as the article says "Not everyone shares the MPA’s perspective of slothful local authority planning departments threatening construction recovery". A director of Quarryplan consultancy, which advises the industry on securing planning permissions, says:
Problems are due mainly to the vast length of time needed to go through environmental impact assessments, community engagement and planning permission itself. When you put all that together the amount of work and resources needed gives a lead-in time that can take years.
The Royal Town Planning Institute, on the other hand, says:
Our view is that this is nothing really to do with the NPPF, which is well-written and supportive of the industry. It may be the case that local authorities are interpreting it differently, but at a local level it is a locational issue, just like housing, of what communities want built in their area.
Whereas according to The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE):
The majority of local authorities have minerals landbanks above the recommended minimum, so suggesting that there is a planning problem is wide of the mark. Applications are particularly complex and controversial, and often raise issues of severe potential damage to rural beauty and tranquillity, and so the industry should reasonably expect them to take time.
Quite sensibly "the CPRE says local authorities should promote the reuse of materials, rather than continue to provide more quarry sites on the basis of past levels of use." So given this, and that arguably Devon has an adequate supply of minerals - taking long-term trends into account - for its new Minerals Plan, why is the CPRE not more vociferous? It is vocal enough when it comes to green belt and wind turbines, and - according to previous president Bill Bryson - "the only real defender of the countryside in Britain", but will it campaign as loudly, some local CPRE members ask, when it comes to defending Devon farms and countryside against the destructive threat of quarrying?